"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:3).
Paul's words are a good introduction to the newness of our knowledge
of the Father as it unfolds in the New Testament. Here God appears
in his Trinitarian reality. His fatherhood is no longer limited to
showing his relationship with creatures, but expresses the
fundamental relationship which characterizes his inner life; it is
no longer a generic feature of God, but the property of the First
Person in God. In his Trinitarian mystery, in fact, God is a father
in his very being; he is always a father since from all eternity he
generates the Word who is consubstantial with him and united to him
in the Holy Spirit "who proceeds from the Father and the Son". In
his redemptive Incarnation, the Word unites himself with us,
precisely in order to bring us into this filial life which he
possesses from all eternity. The Evangelist John says: "To all who
received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become
children of God" (Jn 1:12).
2. Jesus' experience is the basis for this specific revelation of
the Father. It is clear from his words and attitudes that he
experiences his relationship with the Father in a wholly unique way.
In the Gospels we can see how Jesus distinguished "his sonship from
that of his disciples by never saying "Our Father", except to
command them: "You, then, pray like this: "Our Father"" (Mt 6:9);
and he emphasized this distinction saying, "my Father and your
Father"" (CCC, n. 443).
Even as a boy he answered Mary and Joseph, who had been looking for
him anxiously: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's
house?" (Lk 2:48f.). To the Jews who had been persecuting him
because he had worked a miraculous cure on the Sabbath he replied:
"My Father is working still, and I am working" (Jn 5:17). On the
cross he prayed to the Father to forgive his executioners and to
receive his spirit (Lk 23:34, 46). The distinction between the way
Jesus perceives God's fatherhood in relation to himself and in
relation to all other human beings is rooted in his consciousness
and emphasized by him in the words he addresses to Mary Magdalen
after the Resurrection: "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended
to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending
to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (Jn 20:17).
3. Jesus' relationship with the Father is unique. He knows he is
always heard; he knows that through him the Father reveals his
glory, even when men may doubt it and need to be convinced by him.
We see all this in the episode of the raising of Lazarus: "So they
took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father
I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you hear me always,
but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they
may believe that you sent me"" (Jn 11:41f.). Because of this unique
understanding, Jesus can present himself as the One who reveals the
Father with a knowledge that is the fruit of an intimate and
mysterious reciprocity, as he emphasizes in his joyful hymn: "All
things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the
Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son
and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11:27) (cf.
CCC, n. 240). For his part, the Father expresses the Son's unique
relationship with him by calling him his "beloved" son: as he did at
the baptism in the Jordan (cf. Mk 1:11), and at the moment of the
Transfiguration (cf. Mk 9:7). Jesus is also depicted as the son in a
special sense in the parable of the wicked tenants who first
mistreat the two servants and then the "beloved son" of the vineyard
owner, sent to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard (Mk
12:1-11, especially v. 6).
4. The Gospel of Mark has preserved for us the Aramaic word "Abba"
(cf. Mk 14:36) with which Jesus, during his painful hour in
Gethsemane, called on God, praying to him to let the cup of the
Passion pass him by. In the same episode Matthew's Gospel has given
us the translation "my Father" (cf. Mt 26:39, cf. also v. 42), while
Luke simply has "Father" (cf. Lk 22:42). The Aramaic word, which we
can translate into contemporary language as "dad" or "daddy",
expresses the affectionate tenderness of a child. Jesus uses it in
an original way to address God and, in the full maturity of his life
which is about to end on the cross, to indicate the close
relationship which even at that critical moment binds him to his
Father. "Abba" indicates the extraordinary closeness that exists
between Jesus and God the Father, an intimacy unprecedented in the
biblical or non-biblical religious context. Through the Death and
Resurrection of Jesus, the only Son of this Father, we too, as St
Paul said, are raised to the dignity of sons and have received the
Holy Spirit who prompts us to cry "Abba! Father!" (cf. Rom 8:15; Gal
4:6). This simple, childish expression in daily use in Jesus' time
and among all peoples thus acquired a highly significant doctrinal
meaning to express the unique divine fatherhood in relation to Jesus
and his disciples.
5. Although he felt united with the Father in so intimate a way,
Jesus admitted that he did not know the hour of the final and
decisive coming of the kingdom. "But of that day and hour no one
knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father
only" (Mt 24:36). This is an indication of the "emptying of himself"
proper to the Incarnation, which conceals the eschatological end of
the world from his human nature. In this way Jesus disappoints human
calculations in order to invite us to be watchful and to trust in
the Father's providential intervention. On the other hand, from the
standpoint of the Gospels, the intimacy and absoluteness of his
being "Son" is in no way prejudiced by this lack of knowledge. On
the contrary, precisely because he is so united with us, he becomes
crucial for us before the Father: "Every one who acknowledges me
before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in
heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my
Father who is in heaven" (Mt 10:32f.)
Acknowledging Jesus before men is indispensable for being
acknowledged by him before the Father. In other words, our filial
relationship with the heavenly Father depends on our courageous
fidelity to Jesus, his beloved Son.
I extend a special greeting to the group of Knights of Columbus, as
well as to the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. I warmly
welcome our Lutheran visitors from Stockholm and the students and
faculty of the Theological University of Helsinki. Upon all the
English- speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from
England, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and the United States, I invoke
the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Holy Father expressed his satisfaction that Ethiopia and Eritrea
had accepted the peace proposals of the Organization of African
Unity following their recent clashes:
Following the sad news of the brutal, deadly clashes in recent days
between Ethiopia and Eritrea, we have now learned that both
countries have accepted the peace proposals formulated by the
Organization of African Unity. I applaud this wise decision, to
which I join my fervent prayers. It is the only way to end this
fratricidal struggle, to calm hearts and to promote a new style of
government and harmony on the African continent.
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