“Being like the Father”. Motus Christi for the families

How to learn from the Heavenly Father in our parenthood? What does God teach me in my interpersonal relations? Numerous families from all around the world reflected on these questions as they listened to the talk of Fr.Luis Casasus, the general superior of men’s branch of Idente Missionaries.
Here is the full text of Fr.Luis Casasus’s reflection:
Our Father
1. God is Father because he shares, teaches and listens.
“Our Father”. In these first two words of the Lord’s Prayer our relationship with God and with our neighbor is fully explained: we are children of the same Father and therefore brothers and sisters.
It is worth insisting: We do not only meet, we are not only social beings, we do not only form families and communities… Jesus is telling us that God the Father sees us as a family. This is an essential reality, which contradicts the limited vision I have of my own person and of others.
For example: love for our enemies is not only based on the fact that we have a common origin, but that at this very moment, God the Father is taking care of them: Your Father in heaven makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong (Mt 5: 45). Moreover, He has prepared a plan, a concrete and original form for the salvation of everyone. For each one of us, our Father has made a path, a pilgrimage that leads to Him.
When a pagan calls God “father” is because he is conscious of having received from him the gift of existence. Christians identify themselves as a son or a daughter of God at another level: we know that besides existence, we have received the Spirit from him, a sharing in his very own divine life. For this reason, in the first centuries, the prayer, Our Father, was presented only some days before Baptism, that is, only when the catechumen was able to fully understand its meaning.
This divine paternity, which includes a form of love that reminds us of a good mother and father, and redeems human beings from the defects of families that lead children to disastrous behavior. It has been said that if Adam had been a better father, things might have turned out differently for Cain and Abel. As St Paul says: ‘I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named.’ …
Yes, the Father redeems us by the blood of the Son applied to us by the saving work of the Holy Spirit. And this is visible at many times. For example, Pope Francis referred last Friday to the reading of the Gospel, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes for the crowd (Jn 6: 1-15), saying that Christ taught the apostles by putting them to the test. He asked them for something that they considered impossible: How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?
Well, this is what our heavenly Father does with us. His redemption does not mean freeing us from trouble and burdens. That, He may do at times, but in the prayer of the Lord’s Prayer Jesus reminds us that God the Father delivers us from evil, from all evil that separates us from His kingdom. From the evil within us and from the external temptation.
We have an example of this in these weeks, when the world is suffering from the current pandemic. This disease has nothing to do with the will of our heavenly Father; on the contrary, He takes the opportunity of these tragic moments to help us to awaken forms of compassion and generosity that were dormant. In that sense, we can say that He is testing us. And that is what Jesus does with his disciples. He is showing that he is a good son by following the spirit and ways of his heavenly Father.
Yes, God is Father because he shares, teaches and listens to us.
Sometimes, we have the impression that He does not hear our prayers, because they are generous requests, pleas for the good of other human beings… but we have the impression that there is no answer. The change we wish for in the other person, or his healing, or his conversion…never seems to come. However, the experience of Christ is different. For example, before the tomb of Lazarus he says: I thank you, Father, that you listen to me (Jn 11: 41). Our Father listens to us because we are his children, not because we are right. That is how our Father listens to us… We do not fully understand what we are praying, and God, in His mercy, does not answer our prayers according to our understanding, but according to His wisdom.
This is what happens in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The father never stops him from his repentance speech. But listens with an open heart and love for his son. In the end the father will reject the sons remedy for his sin. God loves us enough to listen to our confession and then forgive us. He rejects the remedy the son was asking for. In other words, the son did not get what he deserved. He received forgiveness instead.
But, we can go further: God the Father also listens to us when we are not speaking to Him, when we do not remember Him, when we do not have Him present. That is the way a good father and mother listen to their children. They are able to read in their silences, in their forgetfulness, in their lack of trust.
Sometimes I have imagined that, if by divine mercy I am going to arrive in heaven, I will then realize how many times the angels and the people who loved me have prayed to God for me. Then, when we see together the story of my life, they will tell me: Look, at that moment we were talking about you. That will open my eyes and my heart to repentance and gratitude that perhaps I have not practiced in this life. Then I will realize how God has always been listening to the voices of those who were praying for me.
2. God is Father because he judges.
God judges men. This was already well known to the Jewish people and in the Old Testament it is reflected very expressively as a judgment at the end of time: Judgment will come after death. Then we will be brought back to life, when everyone can see who has been faithful to God, and who has done evil (2Esd 14: 35).
Although that final judgment is important, for it opens the gates of heaven to us in final repentance, when Jesus revealed us God as Father, we come to understand that his judgment is continuous, that he makes us know, in a vigorous and merciful way, what is right at every moment, what is appropriate for us.
We need to know the judgment of God the Father while we are in this world, we need to be sure to follow the path that He has prepared for us.
What is the means by which He communicates His judgment to us? Purification. Indeed, the judgment is not simply an opinion, or an evaluation. God the Father gives us a penalty, a purgatory that can be lived in this world, or after death.
There are still people who imagine that Purgatory is a place; others think that it does not exist. But in reality it is a state, more or less painful, in which our soul is freed both from sin and from things that are not necessary. The purification is carried out by the Holy Spirit at the desire of our heavenly Father.
The Letter of the Hebrews recalls a quote from Job, where prayerful people were already encouraged to accept purification: When the Lord punishes you, don’t make light of it, and when he corrects you, don’t be discouraged. The Lord corrects the people he loves and disciplines those he calls his own. This is the judgment of God which shows the way of life, the one that wakes us up, causes us to reflect on our lives and our relationship to God and encourages us to repent and turn back to Him if we are straying.
Our first problem with purification is to confuse it with bad luck, or even to understand it as a form of wrathful punishment from God.
Our second difficulty is spiritual laziness, limiting ourselves to sterile resignation: What are we going to do? God wanted it that way. That’s life, thank God it doesn’t last a thousand years. God the Father expects a response from that therapeutic action of the Holy Spirit. For example, if I feel discouraged because the effort to overcome a temptation turns out to be overwhelming, I must understand that God is giving me more strength than I imagined and that I will not be alone in this struggle, for our Father does not want me to waste time and energy with these struggles, but to use my life to serve as a witness as He wishes.
God the Father always has a judgment, a new and creative idea (he did not just create the universe) to find forms of unity that I cannot imagine.
How does a father (or mother) create unity among children? By demonstrating clearly that he or she loves all of them without distinction. This requires tact, patience, time and… love. That is why Jesus asks his Father to make unity possible among us: that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You (Jn 17: 21). He does not simply advise us to “make an effort” to be united. History and experience show that it is impossible for human beings. Only God can love each and every one unconditionally and thus put in our minds, in our hearts and in our works, the seed of unity. The rest depends on us.
3. Being like the Father. Along with other missionaries, I witnessed a few years ago a moving testimony given by two spouses, parents of a son and a daughter. The male son was born with cerebral palsy and this forced the family to move to another city to get proper medical care, the father had to find a new job, and the mother had to be attentive 24 hours a day to her son, who was completely dependent. At the age of 32, due to the complications of his illness, the son died. The mother, who was a happy, loving, optimistic person with faith in God, did not survive more than three weeks. The doctors could not stop the avalanche of disorders that broke out in her body.
Our Father Founder told us that what Jesus calls holiness, or perfection, can also be called fatherhood, paternity (we use it interchangeably with motherhood, maternity). Because, in an authentic and harmonious family, fathers give life, but it is at the cost of losing their own, normally at the sacrifice of many dreams, preferences, comforts or even health. For a disciple of Jesus, living fatherhood or motherhood means exactly the same thing, with the striking difference that there is no need for a blood link, or other cultural or psychological ties.
How can we think of bringing people closer to God without living this paternity/maternity?
How can God give us souls to care for them in his name? At most, we will make acts of generosity, sprinkled with moments of selfishness, but God the Father will have his hands tied, he will not be able to collaborate with us because we are moving with different criteria. The authentic apostle takes very seriously the advice of perfection that Jesus gives us: take our meager mercy to the extreme, so that our Father may make it more like his.
The perfection that Jesus is asking of us is not what the world considers perfect. It does not mean that we do not make mistakes or cannot be ignorant over matters. It does not mean that we do not have human weaknesses, physically, intellectually or emotionally. Rather, it is the call to perfection of charity, to be compassionate and forgiving like our heavenly Father is.
We have the means to live like this. As Christ did, we must make the effort to look at our Father with childlike eyes; whether in full activity or in silent prayer.
The eyes and heart of a baby accompany with a glance each gesture of the father. He remains captivated by his gesture and he smiles. He smiles because in all that the father does, he sees signs of his love. As Jesus said one day, The Kingdom of God belong to such as these and whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it (Mk 10:14-15).
There is no sophisticated technique for imitating our heavenly Father. It is enough not to stay alone, it is enough to share with Him every minute… and in that Christ is true Master.
Three Points for Personal Reflection:
1. Let’s remember our attitude. When I look at a human being, how do I see him: as a rival, someone who is in the group of the good or the bad, someone who gives me peace or who worries me… Do I remember that he is someone that God redeemed and is waiting for him in his true home?
2. Have I experienced purification lately, as aridity to understand God’s plan, vacillation, because of all the ascetic effort I am making, or apathy, because “I feel nothing”?
3. What do I lack or what does it hamper me to live an authentic apostolic fatherhood/motherhood with the people that God places on my path?
Fr. Luis CASASUS M.Id
Motus Christi April 26, 2020

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