Homily for Sunday 17C, 2016

Readings: Genesis 18:20-32; Colossian 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13

“Praeceptis salutaribus moniti et divina institutione formati, audemus dicere”… With these words later in this Mass I will introduce the Lord’s Prayer. In the official English translation this is: “At the Saviour’s command and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say…” I have noticed that some people do bridle and express annoyance at the notion that anyone should think that they should have to dare to say “Our Father”. What is daring about saying Our Father, about saying it to God?

The words of introduction tell us that we can address God as Our Father because of the Saviour’s commands and because we have been formed and informed by the teaching of God in Jesus Christ. If it wasn’t for that, then we could not do it. But perhaps the reason people don’t like the notion that we have to dare to call God, Our Father, is because sometimes we do not fully understand what we are saying when we say, “Our Father”.

When we pray, we are speaking to God, God who created each one of us, who created all that exists from nothing, from not existing at all. He not only created all things, He holds them in being. God is not a part of creation and creation is not a part of God. This is the God we are calling “Our Father”.

I suppose we might call God our father because He is our creator. Being created is something we share with the rest of the universe. But we are saying something more. It is Jesus who has told us to call God, “Our Father”. It is as a result of his Incarnation, life, passion, death, resurrection and ascension that we can call God, Father. We have a permission to call God, Father. But there is more to it than a permission. In today’s second reading we heard, “You have been buried with Christ, when you were baptised, and by baptism too, you have been raised up with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.” Through this resurrection we have come into a new relationship with God.

St Paul says in the Letter to the Galatians, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts crying Abba! Father!” Through the Son we have received the Spirit from the Father. It is he who says, Abba! Father! This is more than an acknowledgment that we owe our existence to God the Creator. We are created; we are not God, but He has brought us into a new relationship with Him. We have the Spirit of His Son and he is the one who says Abba! Father! He has given us this Spirit so that, although we are merely parts of creation, we have been brought into the life of God, into the life of the Trinity.

This is not something we can demand as a right. We cannot insist that God should treat us in any special way compared with the rest of creation. All we can do is receive it as a gift. That means we don’t grab at it. It means that we never forget that it is a gift. We are not entitled to it. We cannot make God be our Father. We can only say “Our Father” with any meaning because He allows it, because He has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts crying Abba! Father! But because He has sent His Spirit, we can claim that relationship. That is why we dare to say, “Our Father”.