When we call God, “Father,” it is tempting to compare God to our own experience of fatherhood.
This is often tainted by fathers who leave their families, cheat on their wives, or abuse their children.
We might think to ourselves, “If God is ‘father,’ he must be a terrible person!”
Yet, this is not God’s fatherhood.
Pope Benedict XVI reflected on this truth of the Christian faith in a general audience in 2013.
It is not always easy today to talk about fatherhood, especially in the Western world. Families are broken, the workplace is ever more absorbing, families worry and often struggle to make ends meet and the distracting invasion of the media invades our daily life: these are some of the many factors that can stand in the way of a calm and constructive relationship between father and child.
Despite this brokenness we see around us, God remains a faithful Father.
Yet the revelation in the Bible helps us to overcome these difficulties by speaking to us of a God who shows us what it really means to be “father”; and it is the Gospel, especially, which reveals to us this face of God as a Father who loves, even to the point of giving his own Son for humanity’s salvation.
God’s fatherhood is meant to be the example of all fathers (not the other way around).
God is a Father who never abandons his children, a loving Father who supports, helps, welcomes, pardons and saves with a faithfulness that surpasses by far that of men and women, opening onto dimensions of eternity. “For his steadfast love endures for ever”, as Psalm 136  repeats in every verse, as in a litany, retracing the history of salvation. The love of God the Father never fails, he does not tire of us; it is a love that gives to the end, even to the sacrifice of his Son. Faith gives us this certainty which becomes a firm rock in the construction of our life: we can face all the moments of difficulty and danger, the experience of the darkness of despair in times of crisis and suffering, sustained by our trust that God does not forsake us and is always close in order to save us and lead us to eternal life.
While it may seem at times that God has abandoned us, this is not true.
God is always at our side. It is often our own denial of God that makes it seem that God is distant. We don’t let God into our lives, we force him out with our sins, closing our heart to his love.
If we want to know what true fatherhood is, let us recall the image of the Prodigal Son that Jesus gives in the Gospel.
God is the father who waits for us and is ready to embrace us and hold a feast in our honor.