God is Our Dad

Here are seven common distorted images of God: Competitor God, Transaction God, Disney God, Dictator God, Judgmental God, Detached God, Unreliable God.  People don’t use these terms, but the terms articulate the way we think about and relate to Him.

Remember the story about Steve Jobs? When 13, he saw a picture of children starving in Nigeria and then showed it to his Lutheran pastor, asking where’s God, and then announced that he didn’t want to worship a god like that.  He thought God was… detached and distant.

I told you once about a Catholic who said at his wife’s funeral that, because she died of cancer, he didn’t believe in God anymore.  I think he looked at God in a transactional way: I go to Mass, I’m a good person, so God should give me good things.

All of us have an image of God that’s not completely accurate because that’s our human condition: We’re separated from Him, our sins push Him away, and we’ve been taught so many lies about Him.  Let’s not think about other people’s distorted images but our own.

Dr. Bob Schuchts mentioned that, when he was 14, his father left his family for another woman, and that action  devastated him.  Even though Dr. Schuchts was successful in everything, he believed God wouldn’t help.  (Unreliable)

A friend once mentioned how his religion asks him to observe certain precepts, like what to eat, but, when he breaks the rules, he said dismissively, ‘God understands.’  God, in his mind, has to change according to our wants.  What’s his image?  (Disney)

The atheist Christopher Hitchens said, even if there were a heaven, he wouldn’t want to go there and worship a celestial North Korean leader.  (Dictator)

My mother mentioned to me that, before she became Catholic, she was overall more relaxed, but, after she read some bad Catholic books, she felt like she always had to follow the rules or else God would be displeased with her, so she became quite fearful.  (Judgmental)  This is also my default distortion of God—thanks, Mom!  Just kidding.  We’ve both improved in this.

Finally, Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, started his legacy of pornography in order to “to defeat the religious ‘repression’ of his Methodist parents… aiming to replace it with complete freedom”.  (Competitor)

There is one word that summarizes the Second Reading.  See if you can guess it as I read it, “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption to sonship.  When we cry, ‘Abba!  Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirsheirs of God and joint heirs with Christ — if in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom 8:14-17).  What’s the one word that summarizes the content of this passage?  This one word also describes our relationship with God, the point of the human race, the point of the Catholic Church.  I actually have twenty dollars for the person who gets this right.  Do you know what the word is?  ‘Family.’

To appreciate what it means to be adopted by God the Father, imagine a convict who’s guilty of a horrible crime and will be given a lethal injection.  And, even if he weren’t to be executed, he’s already dying of an illness which has no cure.  Furthermore, even if there were a cure, he has no money because he’s broke, and has no family.

Now, imagine his going down the hall towards the execution, and suddenly the phone rings!  He picks it up and it’s the governor, who says, ‘I’ve got good news: I’ve granted you a full pardon.’  That’s good news because he won’t be executed, and can now go back to his cell and die from the disease.

But, if the governor said, ‘Not only have I granted you a pardon, but they just found the cure for your illness, and it’s on its way down to the prison.  It’s very expensive, but don’t worry, I’ve paid for it.  I’ve also paid off all your debts and filled out adoption papers.  There’s a white limousine outside the prison, you’re coming home, you’re my son.’  That would be great news!

When we have faith in God the Father and are baptized, we ‘receive a spirit of adoption to sonship’ and daughtership.  God the Father has only one natural Son, Jesus; all of us are adopted.

St. Josephine Bakhita

Last August, we talked about St. Josephine Bakhita.  Born in 1869 in Sudan, when seven, she was abducted by slave raiders, sold to a Turkish General, beaten daily, and left with 114 scars on her body from knives.  She eventually wound up in Italy and met Jesus.  She refused to go back to Sudan and asked to be baptized.  One thing I didn’t mention was that she called God ‘paron,’ meaning ‘Master’ in the dialect of Venice, Italy.  Here’s the difference: Unlike all the masters who had owned her, this Master created and loved her.  This Master actually gave up His Son for her and He became a slave for her!  So, she wrote, “I am definitely loved and whatever happens to me, I am awaited by love.  And so my life is good” (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 3).

To be of the same family, we either need to have the same blood or be legally adopted.  In our case, not only are we adopted by God, but He infuses His spiritual blood into us, so to speak.  When the Holy Spirit dwells in our souls and bodies, we’re then ‘led by the Spirit of God,’ and the Spirit inspires us to call God, ‘Abba!  Father!’  Abba means ‘Dad’ or ‘Daddy’ in Aramaic.  This is one of the ways God wants us to call Him.

And our Dad has a great inheritance: eternal, perfect happiness that increases for all time.

However, we need to live like His children, loving Him, loving like Him, and following His commands, otherwise, we push ourselves out of the family.  God is not a Disney Dad: He cares about good and evil, and if we separate ourselves from Him by our actions, we can choose hell for eternity.  He doesn’t want this; in fact, He’s done everything possible to save us from choosing this.

God the Father is so good and respectful of our freedom.  He wants us to love Him freely.  Steve Jobs chose to turn away from God, even though others have seen the same pictures of starving children and decided instead to make mission trips to help.  In the same way, many of us have experienced tragedies, but never got angry at God.  Jesus suffered, everyone suffers.  We are free to choose our response to God.

So, here’s one suggestion: If you choose, when you pray, don’t address God as ‘God.’  Try starting prayer with, ‘Father, You love me.  I love You, too,’ or ‘Lord, thank you for giving me Yourself.’  You might even pray, ‘Dad, keep on loving me, and please change my heart.’  Changing our language for the Father changes our relationship with the Father.

In your pews, there’s a prayer exercise that you can take home that will help with this.  This exercise comes from Dr. Bob Schuchts.  It took him over a year to experience healing from his own father’s abandonment, through retreats, Confession, sharing with other men, and the Mass (Be Healed, 11-23).

Before we end, here’s a good response to the dictator God distortion, and I’m showing you the video because Trent Horn is worth all of us knowing about and learning from; he’s an apologist, that is, someone who explains the faith with rational means (Please watch 8:55-10:23).

God is not just a perfect being Who deserves our praise.  He’s our Dad.   Faith Hakesley, whom we mentioned in August 2023, was sexually abused by a priest when she was 15, and experienced incredible healing when she met Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.  She wrote, “Each of us was called forward one at a time for a few moments alone with him.  I still had no idea what to say…  Instead, as I practically ran toward the Holy Father…  I reacted in a way that a child would — with tears…   Pope Benedict held my hands with such love and tenderness, and in that moment, I felt the heavenly Father’s love pouring into me through the pontiff.  The reality that God had always been with me even in my lowest, darkest times hit me like a lightning bolt…  Because of his love, there would always be hope, and because of God’s great love for all mankind, I needed to forgive those who had hurt me…   For the first time, I felt free…   I left that meeting a changed woman.”

The seven distorted images of God are overcome by one word, family, and one name, Father, or, as Jesus taught us, Dad.

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