In my last post, I spoke about the inexhaustible riches that can me mined from the Our Father prayer. I proposed three invitations at the heart of this pre-eminent prayer. The first was the Invitation to Purification.
In this post we will look at the two other invitations.
#2: The Invitation to Filiation
Filiation refers to the power that God has given us, in Christ, to become his daughters and sons. We are adopted into the Divine Family (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), are partakers in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and by his Spirit can cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6).
You see, the opening words of this prayer, “Our Father” are not only revealing a profound truth about the very nature of the First Person of the Trinity, it is revealing us to ourselves (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2783).
Because we are deeply loved as his own, we can come to our Father with a fundamental disposition of a child to a loving parent. This disposition is called parrhesia:
“the straightforward simplicity, filial trust, joyous assurance, humble boldness, [and] the certainty of being loved” (CCC 2778).
There are few paragraphs in the Catechism I love more than this one because I regularly have to “sit” in the mystery of that truth. This is how my Father wants me to approach him.
By the way, this disposition (sometimes called holy boldness) is what fueled the faith of the first followers of Jesus. It threads its way through the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:29; 4:13, 29, 31; 28:31).
#3: Invitation to Imitation
Finally, a third invitation of the Our Father is the Invitation to Imitation. When we have faith in the Father’s character as a loving parent (Invitation #1), and love him with filial boldness (Invitation #2), it gives us the hope we need to face the challenges of life. But, it also comes with an incredible responsibility: making the Father and his love known to the rest of humanity. It cultivates a desire for us to become like him, to be living icons in the world that can counter the idols of God that have been created by some parents and religious teachers.
I regularly ask people in large audiences, “How many of you are catechists?”
About ten percent will raise their hands.
I then say, “That was a trick question. Everyone is a catechist, because we all teach people every time we open our mouths or act in the world.”
The question I then often pose is, “What is your life teaching about the Lord?”
Following Up on Your Invitations
One of the key ways we can accept the Invitation to Imitation is by showing kindness, generosity, and mercy to those around us. St. John Chrysostom made the point strongly:
“You cannot call the God of all kindness your Father if you preserve a cruel and inhuman heart; for in this case you no longer have in you the marks of the heavenly Father’s kindness.”
Imagine how our families, parishes, and dioceses would change if every Catholic walked in these three invitations of the Our Father?
Let’s close by gathering these last two invitations into a final prayer:
Father, you restored us to your likeness by grace. Help us, by that same grace to become living icons of your love to a world looking and longing for your face. In your Son and by the Holy Spirit, we will live in the joyous assurance and certainty of your love, while bearing that love clearly and courageously to those we will encounter. Amen.
Now over to you:
How do you see yourself imitating the Our Father, and living as catechist in your everyday life?
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About Thomas Smith
Thomas Smith is the co-author of Wisdom: God’s Vision for Life, Revelation: The Kingdom Yet to Come and The Prophets: Messengers of God’s Mercy. He is an international presenter for The Great Adventure Bible Timeline. Bringing a wealth of experience and insight on the Word of God to audiences across the U.S., Thomas is a repeat guest on EWTN and Catholic radio as well as a sought after parish mission and conference speaker. Thomas Smith has taught as an adjunct professor at the St. Francis School of Theology in Denver, and is the former Director of the Denver Catholic Biblical School and the Denver Catechetical School. He lives on his family ranch in southeastern Idaho and writes for his website www.gen215.org.
This article was first published July 24, 2014 on The Great Adventure Blog (biblestudyforcatholics.com), the former home of the Ascension Blog. For information about The Great Adventure Bible study series, click here.
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I find there is only one way I can do this….that is by trying to the best of my ability to keep myself bound to Jesus…depending on where God puts me at any particular time, I try to think about “What would Jesus do?”….always in love and kindness…this is not easy as I fall many times…however, I have found that praying the Rosary and reading Scripture daily helps me to stay bound to Jesus…when I don’t do these things, I seem to “fall off the wagon” so to speak….and then I need to confess and get back up and start over again….I find Jesus’ mercy here, and this is my model to go out and be merciful to all those that come to me….to the best of my ability…This is the only way I know of to do it….
At work there a definitely a few people that are quite challenging as they press my buttons and get a reaction from me. Sometimes the reaction can be a negative one!
I have prayed the Our Father since our last discussion slowly and have found that if I think about two of the phrases that stand out for me when difficult situations happen, my anger is diffused! God certainly does work in mysterious ways!
The first phrase I think of is ‘Hallowed be Thy Name’. When Jesus taught the people this prayer, He was reminding them/us of how holy our Lord is and how important our Lord is in our lives. The second phrase is ‘As we forgive those who trespass against us.’ This particular phrase stops me dead in my tracks. God is giving us the ability to forgive, just as He forgives us! What a special and precious gift! I think more people should take heed of that phrase and put it to use. Maybe there wouldn’t be as much anger in the world.
By using these special phrases throughout the day, I have gained more patience and a bit more wisdom.
Treat every person with Love and Respect, every day, every person and every time. Much easier to say than do. But we are never alone because Jesus lives in us too!
How I wish it was easy to show kindness, generosity and mercy to everyone, but it isn’t and I fail often. All I can do is keep trying, knowing that God will never abandon me and pray that I never give up trying.
Simply think deeply (meditate) of the very first two words “Our Father…” which simply makes everyone my sibling and I must love everyone as God does. Add to this “God is Love” and I can do nothing but humbly submit any anger or unforgiveness over to Him.