Thursday, January 31, 2013
Bible Helps Overcome Today's Lack of Fatherhood, Says Pope
God the Father Reveals Himself as 'Infinitely Greater, More Faithful, More Total' Than Human Love
By Kathleen Naab
VATICAN CITY, January 31, 2013 (Zenit.org) - Benedict XVI admits that in today's problematic world, it is not always easy to envision God as Father. But the revelation found in Scripture helps overcome these difficulties, he says.
The Pope said this Wednesday as he dedicated his general audience address to a reflection on the "fundamental definition of God that the Creed gives us: He is Father."
"It is not always easy today to talk about fatherhood," the Holy Father observed. "Especially in the West, the broken families, the increasingly absorbing work commitments, the worries and often the effort to balance the family budget, the distracting invasion of the media into daily life, are some of the many factors that can prevent a peaceful and constructive relationship between fathers and their children. Communication becomes difficult at times, trust is weakened and the relationship with the father figure can become problematic; and thus it also becomes difficult to imagine God as a father, not having adequate models of reference."
He said that those who have had an authoritarian, inflexible father, or those with a father who is indifferent and lacking affection, find it difficult to think of God as a Father and "surrender to Him with confidence."
"But," the Pope stated, "biblical revelation helps to overcome these difficulties, telling us about a God who shows us what it means to truly be 'father.'"
The reference to God as Father, he continued, "helps to understand something of the love of God which however remains infinitely greater, more faithful, more total than that of any man."
The Pope went on to draw from Scripture multitude references to the characteristics of God as Father.
"God is a Father who never abandons his children, a loving Father who supports, helps, welcomes, forgives, saves, with a fidelity that immensely surpasses that of men, opening onto the dimensions of eternity," he said. "[...] The love of God the Father never fails, He never tires of us; He is love that gives to the extreme, even to the sacrifice of His Son. Faith gives us this certainty, which becomes a secure rock in constructing our lives: We can face all the moments of difficulty and danger, the experience of the darkness of crisis and of times of pain, supported by our faith that God does not leave us alone and is always near, to save us and bring us to eternal life."
Benedict described God's fatherhood as "infinite love, tenderness that stoops over us -- weak children -- in need of everything."
Still, the Pope admitted, the presence of so much evil and suffering in the world can bring us to question God's omnipotence.
"We would like an omnipotence of God according to our mental schemes and our desires: an 'omnipotent' God who solves the problems, who intervenes to save us from every difficulty, who defeats all the harmful powers, changes the course of events and cancels out pain," he said.
Hence, there are those who deny God's omnipotence. But in fact, "faith in the Almighty God takes us through very different paths: to learn to recognize that God's thoughts are different from our thoughts, that God's ways are different from our ways (cf. Is 55:8), and even his omnipotence is different: It is not expressed as an automatic or arbitrary force, but is marked by a loving and fatherly freedom."
The Pontiff suggested that in making free creatures, God renounces something of his freedom, "empowering our freedom."
"In this way He loves and respects our free response of love to his call," he said. "Like a Father, God want us to be his children and to live as such in his Son, in communion, in full intimacy with Him."
God seems weak, the Pope said, if we think of Jesus, who allowed himself to be put to death. But this weakness is the "true way of being powerful!"
"This is the power of God! And this power will win," he said. "[...] Only one who is truly powerful can endure evil and show compassion; only one who is truly powerful can fully exercise the power of love. And God, to whom all things belong because all things were made by Him, reveals his strength by loving everyone and everything, in a patient waiting for the conversion of us men, whom he wants to have as children."
"To say 'I believe in God the Father Almighty,' in his power, in his way of being Father, is always an act of faith, of conversion, of transformation of our mind, of all our affection, of our entire way of life," the Pope concluded. "God grant that we may receive the gift of our 'sonship,' to live fully the reality of the Creed, in trusting abandonment to the love of the Father and His merciful omnipotence that saves."