Honoring Our Merciful Father

We honor our parents not because they give us what we want but because they represent our merciful God who gives us his loving and life-giving Spirit: What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:11-13)? God freely gives us food to sustain the body as well as his Spirit who imparts gifts and talents on each to use for the good of others and for the common good of his family. As St. Paul says:

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

God’s Spirit imparts particular gifts and talents, calling us to develop them for the service of others. This honors God, just as it would a mother and father. Are not parents proud when a child shares a gift he has received with a sibling or other child? Or when the child graduates from high school or college? Or when he gets a job and begins to lead a productive life? Are not parents proud when their child gets married and begins to have a family of his own? On the contrary, how it dishonors God and one’s parents when a child’s talents go wasted, buried in the ground, and are not used to help others (see Matthew 25:14-20).

What are the duties of parents toward their children? Parents, in virtue of their participation in the fatherhood of God, have the first responsibility for the education of their children and they are the first heralds of the faith for them. They have the duty to love and respect their children as persons and children as of God and to provide, as far as is possible, for their physical and spiritual needs. They should select for them a suitable school and help them with prudent counsel in the choice of their profession and their state of life. In particular they have the mission of educating their children in the Christian faith (CCC 460).

What makes us perfect is imitating our heavenly Father, who gives good things—sunshine, rain, love, etc.—to his family whether they are good or not (see Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27-36). He is not focused on being “fair”— giving exactly the same to each—but in giving different gifts and talents to each one so that they would share their gifts with the others in the family. So, it pleases God that we become merciful as he is merciful (Luke 6:36), developing and using the gifts and talents he has given us for his family— whether they are good or not. Each one of us is called to give of ourselves to all the others. As St. Paul goes on to say:

As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor… If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it (1 Corinthians 12:20-27).

What is the nature of the family in the plan of God? … Members of the same family establish among themselves personal relationships and primary responsibilities. In Christ the family becomes the domestic church because it is a community of faith, of hope, and of charity (CCC 456).

Let us suffer together with those who suffer and then honor God and our parents by mercifully sharing all that we are and all that we have in the service of our family, the Church, for the good of all God’s children. Then we can rejoice together in the honor of God’s great Catholic family.

Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.