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4 Ways to understand God as Father

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Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP - published on 06/20/21

Unlike that of any earthly father, God’s goodness will never run out.

Stop and reflect today on what it really means to call God “Father.”

1God is creator

In the Old Testament, Israel had a sense of God as father of a nation, father of their people. The prophet Jeremiah says, “I will lead them to streams of water, on a level road, without stumbling. For I am a father to Israel, Ephraim is my firstborn.” (Jer. 31:9).

The ancient understanding of God as “father” is linked to God as creator. In the Scriptures, God is the author of life, the maker of all things. The prophet Isaiah writes, “Yet, Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you our potter: we are all the work of your hand” (Isa. 64:8). These words hearken back to Genesis, where God creates human beings from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7). The father breathes life, giving form and shape to our hearts.

The one who created life does not hesitate to re-fashion us in new life. With the advent of sin, the coming of brokenness into the world, God the Father works to restore us to life. In the Gospel, the Father says, “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor. 6:18).

We have, by virtue of our creation and re-creation in grace, been adopted by our Heavenly Father. The first gift of creation was followed by a second gift of re-creation: redemption, that is the forgiveness of our sins.

Creation and re-creation show us how much the Father loves us, calling us even his sons and daughters. Father to all as creator, God is our spiritual father by the order of grace, bestowing on us supernatural life. Moreover, children are not far from their father. God is not an executive or ruler distant from us. Therefore, we can approach God with the confidence of heirs, the intimacy of sons and daughters. He invites us to life with him!

2God is provider

The Father who first made and then re-makes us, the author of life and eternal life, constantly provides for his children. King David prayed,

Blessed are you, LORD, God of Israel our father, from eternity to eternity. Yours, LORD, are greatness and might, majesty, victory, and splendor. For all in heaven and on earth is yours; yours, LORD, is kingship; you are exalted as head over all. Riches and glory are from you, and you have dominion over all (1 Chron. 29:11).

But we may be tempted to become too attached to natural analogies of fatherhood and then apply them to God. For example, it is natural that children grow and become established. They seek independence, to be able to provide for themselves, and even form families of their own. I know my own father was at some level glad I became a priest, because he was not sure how degrees in philosophy and French literature were going to provide for me!

But God the Father never expects us to grow independent of him. Scripture says, “all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change” (James 1:17). God will always provide for us. In the darkness of our need, God the Father sent his only Son, demonstrating his continued care for us. The Gospel of John says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

3God is inexhaustible goodness

As every good father wants the best for his sons and daughters, God the Father gives us every good gift imaginable. “If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” (Matt. 7:11).

It is often said that parents want their children to achieve more, to have more than they themselves had. God the Father, who is infinitely perfect, wants us to share forever in that unending love that characterizes the life of the saints in heaven. And unlike any earthly father, God’s goodness will never run out. We can’t ask too much of God or deplete his kindness. 

We don’t have to strategize what we ask of our Heavenly Father. Consider what St. Paul told the Romans, “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom. 8:32). With such a father, nothing is too great, nothing is too much for his mercy and love!

4God is faithful

All too often families are left wounded and broken by a father who runs away or otherwise betrays. However, God the Father is perfect faithfulness and abiding loyalty. 

When I was a child, the motto of the bishop of our diocese was, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Taken from Psalm 136, the phrase proclaims God’s unfailing love, always offered to his people. It was a promise of God’s always present mercy, God’s readiness, like the Father in the parable of the prodigal son, to shower gifts on his sons and daughters.

With God, we are secure. He is the one thing in life that will never change, the one who we can always rely on. Jesus promises his disciples, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:29). Regardless of the storms of life that come, the Father’s faithfulness will remain, changeless and unfaltering!

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