1. At the dramatic moment when
he was preparing to face death, Jesus ends his great farewell
discourse (cf. Jn 13ff.) with a wonderful prayer to the Father. It
can be considered a spiritual testament in which Jesus returns to
the Father's hands the mandate he had received: to make his love
known to the world, through the gift of eternal life (cf. Jn 17:2).
The life he offers is significantly explained as a gift of
knowledge. "This is eternal life, that they know you the only true
God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (Jn 17:3).
Knowledge, in the biblical language of the Old and New Testaments,
is not only intellectual, but usually implies a living experience
which involves the whole human person including his capacity to
love. This knowledge leads to an "encounter" with God, as part of
that process which the Eastern theological tradition likes to call
"divinization" and which takes place through the interior,
transforming action of God's Spirit (cf. St Gregory of Nyssa, Oratio
Catech., 37: PG 45, 98B). We already touched on these topics in the
catechesis for the year of the Holy Spirit. Returning now to the
words of Jesus just quoted, we want to reflect on what it means to
have a living knowledge of God the Father.
2. God can be known as father at various levels, depending on the
perspective from which we look at him and the aspect of the mystery
considered. There is a natural knowledge of God which is based on
creation: this leads us to recognize him as the origin and
transcendent cause of the world and of man, and in this sense to
perceive his fatherhood. This knowledge is deepened in the
progressive light of Revelation, that is, on the basis of God's
words and his interventions in salvation history (cf. CCC, n. 287).
In the Old Testament, knowing God as father means returning to the
origins of the people of the covenant: "Is he not your father, who
created you, who made you and established you?" (Dt 32:6). The
reference to God as father guarantees and maintains the unity of
those who belong to the same family: "Have we not all the one
Father? Has not the one God created us?" (Mal 2:10). God is
recognized as father even when he rebukes the son for his own good:
"For the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in
whom he delights" (Prv 3:12). Obviously, a father can always be
called upon in times of discouragement: "I called out: O Lord, you
are my father, you are my champion and my saviour; do not abandon me
in time of trouble, in the midst of storms and dangers" (Sir 51:10).
In all these forms, the values experienced in human fatherhood are
applied preeminently to God. We immediately realize that it is
impossible to know the full meaning of this fatherhood except to the
extent that God himself reveals it.
3. In the events of salvation history there is a gradual revelation
of the Father's initiative: by his interior action he opens the
hearts of believers to accepting the incarnate Son. By knowing
Jesus, they will also be able to know him, the Father. This is what
Jesus himself teaches in reply to Thomas: "If you had known me, you
would have known my Father (Jn 14:7; cf. vv. 7-10).
Thus it is necessary to believe in Jesus and to see him, the light
of the world, in order not to remain in the darkness of ignorance
(cf. Jn 12:44-46) and to know that his teaching comes from God (cf.
Jn 7:17f.). On this condition it is possible to know the Father and
to become capable of worshiping him "in spirit and truth" (Jn 4:23).
This living knowledge is inseparable from love. It is communicated
by Jesus, as he said in his priestly prayer: "O righteous Father? I
made known to them your name, and I will make it known, that the
love with which you have loved me may be in them" (Jn 17:25-26).
"When we pray to the Father, we are in communion with him and with
his Son, Jesus Christ. Then we know and recognize him with an ever
new sense of wonder" (CCC, n. 2781). Knowing the Father, then, means
finding in him the source of our being and our unity as members of
one family, but it also means being immersed in a "supernatural"
life, the very life of God.
4. The message of the Son therefore remains the royal road for
knowing the Father and making him known; in fact, as the expressive
words of St Irenaeus recall, "knowledge of the Father is the Son"
(Adv. Haer., IV 6, 7: PG 7, 990B). This possibility is offered to
Israel but also to the Gentiles, as Paul emphasizes in the Letter to
the Romans: "Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of
Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will
justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the
uncircumcised through their faith" (Rom 3:29f.). God is one and he
is the Father of all, who is eager to offer everyone the salvation
brought by the Son: this is what John's Gospel calls the gift of
eternal life. This gift must be accepted and communicated on the
surge of that gratitude which led Paul to say in the Second Letter
to the Thessalonians: "We are bound to give thanks to God always for
you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God chose you from the
beginning to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and
belief in the truth" (2 Thes 2:13).
I extend a particular welcome to the Swedish Women’s Educational
Association. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors,
especially those from England, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Korea,
Canada and the United States of America, I invoke the joy and peace
of our Lord Jesus Christ.
This page is the work of the Servants of the
Pierced Hearts of Jesus and