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Knowing the Father through the Son

 

By Devin Rose

We all want to be better fathers, and it seems obvious that our model should be God our Father. Yet for years after becoming a Christian, I struggled with getting to know the Father and understanding what his characteristics were.

I knew that he was “perfect,” but if anything that fact seemed just to separate me further. I needed some concrete way to get to know him that would span the vast gulf that seemed to lie between me here on earth and him in unapproachable glory in heaven. Two things enabled me to overcome this distance: contemplating Christ’s own words about his relationship with the Father and then looking at Jesus during Holy Week through the Father’s eyes.

First let’s consider Christ’s statements about him and his Father: “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also” (John 5:19). Both a grave responsibility and a noble privilege are contained in this brief statement.

As fathers, we have the responsibility to model courage and self-sacrifice for our sons and patience and chivalry for our daughters — to show them how to do good and not evil. It is also a privilege to be entrusted with the care and formation of our children, young persons created by God for eternal life with him in heaven.

Jesus goes on in the next verse of St. John’s Gospel to say: “For the Father loves his Son and shows him everything that he himself does.”

We can learn from this that the way to lead our children is first to love them and share our life with them. That means giving our most valuable asset to them: our time. Nothing can replace time spent with our children, whether working around the house, building something out in the garage, going camping, or even just playing games together. We see our children thrive on the attention and encouragement we give them during these times.

Since Jesus Christ is the “visible image of the unseen God,” he unlocks the mystery of the Father through his words and actions. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked his Father if the cup of suffering might be taken from him, but he also submitted his will to the Father’s. And the Father must have desired nothing more than to ease his Son’s suffering, for no father wants to see his children endure pain. Yet they both knew that the Way of the Cross was the way of salvation. So God the Father allowed him to suffer for this greater good, and Christ the Son did not shy away from it but rather embraced it for love of us.

When Christ’s accusers came to arrest him and the Apostles all fled, he stood and faced them courageously, teaching us that there are times when fathers must stand and fight. When he was brought before Herod and mocked, he made no answer, teaching us that silence carries with it strength. When he fell three times carrying his Cross up the hill and got up again each time, he showed us how we are to persevere even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. And when Christ was finally nailed to the Cross for our salvation, we learn that fathers must be willing to selflessly sacrifice for the good of others, even to the point of death.

Indeed, Christ’s agony and death show us how great the Father’s love is, a love that is willing to lay down its life for others. What an incredible gift, that we fathers get to share in this noble calling with Christ and his Father!

The vast distance separating us from the Father was spanned by Christ. Now we can know the Father, for we know the Son. This knowledge, coupled with God’s grace, will help us to become the fathers that we were created to be.

Devin Rose is a 31-year-old software engineer and lay apologist who blogs at St. Joseph’s Vanguard. He and his wife, Katie, live with their four children in Austin, Texas.