When we survey the Gospels, we find that the earliest recorded words of Christ are about His Father.
The Passover feast has ended, and Mary and Joseph are on their way back from Jerusalem when they realise they have lost the twelve-year old child Jesus. Tradition (apart from logic) informs us of the great sorrow that befell Mary and Joseph. They search for him and on the third day they finally find him in the Temple. “Son, why have you treated us so?” Mary asks, concerned and confused as to why their perfect God-Son has put them through the grinder. “Behold your father and I have been looking for you anxiously.”
Jesus’ words are brief. A mere “statement” or “saying” (Lk 2:50) spoken from the lips of a child, almost with a teenager-like smack if the words weren’t also laden with the mystery, weight and authority of a God: “Why is it that you were looking for me? Did you not know that it is fitting for me to be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2:49).
The last words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels before His death are likewise directed to the Father. “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:46).
As we know, the Holy Spirit is the ultimate author of the Gospels. Out of all the words spoken by Jesus that could have been recorded as His ‘first words’ in the Gospels, the account at the Temple was chosen according to divine decree, by means of the Evangelist Luke. Here the subject is the Father as is the final words of Jesus before His death.
The Father was constantly on the human mind of Jesus—Jesus who was one in substance with the Father according to His divinity. His humanity made manifest this profound oneness with the Father, His marvellous unity and relationship with the Father.
Jesus tells us plainly, especially through the Evangelist John. He was sent by the Father, sent on mission into the world to turn the hearts of straggling humanity back to their Father (Jn 7; Mal 4:6).
“No one has ever seen God,” writes St. John, but “the only begotten God, the one being in the bosom of the Father, He has made Him known” (1 Jn 1:18).
Thus Jesus can boldly and beautifully say, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). We don’t know what the Father looks like, He is pure spirit, non-material, beyond all sight. Yet in Jesus we can “see” the Father. The Greek root word used as a participle here (ὁ ἑωρακὼς) is richer than mere physical seeing, it’s a seeing with the mind, and an experiential knowing. “Whoever has known, whoever has experienced me has known and experienced the Father”.
Thus Paul can say “He is the image of the unseen God” (Col 1:15), and John can write, that concerning “the Word of life,” Jesus “the only begotten [Son] of God” who has made the Father ‘seeable’ and known: Him “we have seen with our eyes… and our hands have touched”.
“Behold what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God, and we are!” (1 Jn 3:1). Here we are entering some of the most beautiful passages in the Scripture. Yet the passage can also be translated as follows: “Behold what love the Father has placed in us, that we should be called children of God”.
St. John then directs himself to us: “Beloved,” or more properly, “Beloved ones, now children of God we are, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be. But we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is” (3:2).
Recall the Creed, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God… consubstantial with the Father”. “Consubstantial,” meaning “with same substance” or “of one substance” translating the Latin consubstantiálem, which translates the Greek term: homoousios. When John writes, “We know that when he appears we will be like Him” the word for “like” is homoioi (ὅμοιοι) the same root used in the Greek word for consubstantial: homoousios.
However, we know that we cannot be one in substance with the Father. Our likeness will not be a likeness by virtue of substance but by virtue of grace—a likeness to God accomplished by grace.
This is precisely what Jesus came into the world to do. He came on a mission from the Father to make us into children, into sons and daughters of God. To make us one with the Father just as He is one with the Father.
We tend to complicate things—this is what our faith is about. It’s the purpose of the sacraments, the reason for the Church, the ultimate plan God has for us, and the purpose of our vocations and lives: to come to Jesus, to believe in Him, to enter Him and there be one with the Father—to love the Father in Jesus Christ, as another Christ, as son, as child, with the Holy Spirit who is the Love of the Father for the Son, and who is the Love of the Son for the Father, given to us as gift, so that we might love with this Love who is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit who pounds in our hearts, hovers over our lives, whirls throughout creation as its sustaining power, and which above all causes us to cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15).
After all, “this is how you should pray,” said Jesus, “Our Father…”
“All who have this confident hope” to call on the Father as child, “purifies himself, just as He [the Father] is pure” (1 Jn 3:3) and will be fashioned more and more into the likeness of the only Son.
Earthly fathers, fatherly figures and parental roles are all meant to serve as little signs of the Father and His love for us. Not all are privileged with loving fathers, some of us are, we should be thankful for that and we can use our love for our own fathers as spring boards to love the Father in heaven. Yet whatever the case, the Father through Jesus His Son has sent His Love into our hearts as Holy Spirit: placed in us at baptism, fortified by confirmation, enkindled by prayer and acts of love. Nothing can thwart this Love.
Just think, “what love the Father has placed in us, that we should be called children of God… and that when He appears,” and when we appear before Him, “we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is”.