Abbà, Father!

Have you ever been in a place praying together with other people and been drawn to someone whom you see particularly collected, absorbed in the presence of God? Hasn’t the desire come over you to ask him or her: “How can you pray like that? Reveal your secret to me, allow me to pray together with you, teach me how you do it.”

One day Jesus was in a place praying, and when he had finished one of the disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray say, Father…” (Luke 11:1-2)

 I have always been fascinated by this scene in Luke’s Gospel and wondered what that disciple witnessed, what a marvel it was to see Jesus in prayer. He was God, yet every day he needed to retreat and be with the Father. For him, those hours were vital, which he snatched even from sleep, from rest.

Jesus does not keep his secret to himself but responds by teaching the words of the Lord’s Prayer. He does not utter a formula, but communicates a way, His way, of standing before God. The Son has nothing more precious than His relationship with the Father. His union with Him is the motive of His life, of His mission and is the content of all His revelation.

Already at the age of twelve, Jesus reveals his consciousness that he is a Son of God and has been sent to take care of the things of his Father (Jn 2:49). His familial identity will then be even clearer at the moment of his Baptism, at which the Father himself will make his voice heard (Lk 3:22). He begins his public ministry and the words he speaks are those he hears from his Father during his prayer vigils (Jn 12:50). The disciples he chooses are those whom the Father gives him (Jn 17:24) and even in the works he does, it is the Father who works (Jn 10:10). The many little ones Jesus encounters, heals and praises are those whom the Father also favors (Mt 11:25). The Son eats with tax collectors and sinners, because his Father is gracious and merciful, loves even those who do not love him and sends his Son into the world not to condemn, but to save. (Jn 3:17)

Jesus lives His identity and mission as a son who receives everything from the Father. He is closely united with Him, in a relationship that will always be unique, privileged. He who has seen me has seen the Father (Jn 14:9). No one knows the Father except the Son and the one to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him. (Mt 11:27)

He came to give the gift of this relationship to us.

Even before Jesus, the Jews called God by the name Father. God was called Father by the people of Israel because he was a creator, a merciful and tender redeemer: “But, Lord, you are our Father; we are clay and you the one who molds us, all of us are the work of your hands.” (Is 64:7)

The mind-blowing news that Jesus came to bring is the revelation of the heart of this Father by the one who knows Him best and addresses Him by the sweet name of Abba. We all have in mind the scene of Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. With His knees on the ground and wet with sweat of blood, with His soul sad to the point of death, He asks the Father to take that cup away from Him. For the first time in the Gospel, Jesus addresses the Father, calling Him Abba. “Father, Abba, if it is possible, pass this cup from me! But not as I will, but as you will!” (Mt 26:39)

Abba: it is the most confidential, the most affectionate, the most familiar word.

Abba does not turn away from Him that bitter cup but gives Jesus the strength to drink it to the bottom. On the cross, the Son consumes it to the last drop, experiencing the darkness, the abandonment of his Abba, to whom, however, He delivers His last breath.

Never more than in this fragment of life and death does Christ act as our teacher. When I complain of my cross, of the hardships I experience, of the pain that runs through me and I am tempted to cry out for God’s abandonment, I put myself back into this scene. And one thought, always the same, quiets my thousand questions: God the Father madly loved His son, yet He allowed that excruciating suffering for Him. If He allowed it for Him, why not for me?

And in the valley, which remains dark and winding, I remember that I can turn to a Father, who is an Abba. I know that I always remain a daughter, that I can, indeed, must depend on Him. I know that I can show myself to Him in all my vulnerability, misery. I know that I can ask Him for everything, certain that He will give me what I really need. I do not have to grow up, become an adult, leave home. He wants me to remain small. He is a demanding Father at times, He may ask a lot of me, it may even seem too much to me, but He does not leave me alone, ever! My life is in His hands, I know that He is not distracted and that in every moment He carries out His plan of peace for me and for the whole world.

Jesus teaches me to turn to the Father as a provident Abba, who knows my most concrete needs and desires to minister to them, inviting me to do the same with those who are poor. The Son, who experienced temptation and overcame it, tells me that I can ask our Abba to be even closer to me when I am tempted, so that I do not remain mired in the snare of evil, but pass through it and go beyond it. And, when I fall, He encourages me to ask forgiveness from the Father, who is there waiting for me to celebrate. Only He wants that, as his Son, I may also forgive my brothers and sisters, so that my heart may become as big as His and be lightened from the chains of resentment.

Jesus teaches us to turn confidently to the Father who is in Heaven, and yet He tells us that this Father makes himself close to us, closer than we can imagine. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him.” (Jn 14:23)

How great and mysterious is this Father: He dwells in Heaven and He dwells within us. Jesus, teach us again to live as sons!

Suggested Concrete Resolutions:

  • I can dedicate a moment each day to recite the Our Father slowly and meditate on it.
  • If I realize I have doubts or questions about the Father, I talk about it with a priest or someone who can help me.

 

This month’s meditation is by Sr. Simona Ciullo, AVI.

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