29 July2007, XVII Sunday of the Year

Abba Father

Ex 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Lk 11:1-13

With the Exodus event, a great breakthrough occurred in the religious experience of humankind. Till then God was ‘El Shaddai’, the God of the mountains, God of power and might, a distant God, a God who was unapproachable and a God who was feared. But then God hears the cries of anguish from the hearts of His people. He sees their sufferings. He is moved with compassion for them. He resolves to save them. He sends Moses to liberate them. He works the wonders of His power to break their bondage. He leads them across the Red Sea. He feeds them with Manna from the heavens and water from the rock. He is with them in the pillar of cloud during the day and column of fire during the night. He protects them form the poisonous serpents and defends against hostile tribes. He makes a Covenant of love with them. He dwells among them in Ark of Covenant. He leads them into the Promised Land and makes the Temple His dwelling place. God becomes Yahweh-“I am in your midst as one who saves you.” He is a God who walks with His people, suffers with His people, cares for His people and leads His people. He is a personal God, a loving God, a compassionate God-“My rock, my shield, my stronghold.” He is the Good Shepherd who goes in search of those who are lost, brings back home those who have gone astray, binds up the wounds of those who are hurt, gives strength to those who are weak and leads us along the path to life in all its fullness. He is a God who is with us when the fires overwhelm us and floods overtake us. He never forgets us even if our father and mother should forsake us. His love for us will never come to an end even if mountains and hills should crumble and turn to dust.

 

It is this God that enters into a game of bargaining with Abraham. Sin of Sodom has reached intolerable limits and cries for retribution. Justice demands that Sodom should be punished and that retribution should be swift. But God delays. He allows Abraham to plead for Sodom. God of justice yields to God of Mercy. “It is not sacrifice that I want, it is mercy”. “How can I be angry with you? How can I punish you? My heart recoils within me. I cannot be angry with you. I cannot punish you. For I am God, I am not a human being”. “I was angry with you just for a brief moment. I will now accept you back for ever.” No wonder Abraham feels such courage and confidence to bargain with God for the sake of the just people in Sodom. It looks as if God was really waiting for such an excuse to relent and to revert from his just anger. His compassion far surpasses His anger; His mercy is far stronger than His justice.

 

This is the God of Jesus Christ-a loving, compassionate, merciful, forgiving Lord. And in the Jordan experience of Jesus, this God goes further and reveals Himself as a loving, tender father: ABBA. This is the final breakthrough in the religious experience of humankind, a definitive revelation of the true nature of God. Jesus had such a personal and power experience of God’s Fatherhood, that is the deep conviction of this central truth of our faith is clearly manifested in the urgency and the intensity with which He seeks to put it across with the help of examples from our own common experience of parents showing their love for their children by giving them bread, fish and egg when they ask for them.

 

This absolute conviction of Jesus, born of profound personal experience, that God is a loving, caring, provident parent who gives life, nurtures life, protects life and makes life grow, has been enshrined in the prayer He taught us, the prayer which has now become paradigm for all Christian prayer. The focus in this prayer is on God who is a loving, tender, caring, provident parent. This is not a prayer to be memorized word for word and repeated mindlessly. Rather it is a stance to be taken, an attitude to be adopted and a relationship to be lived-that of a trusting son or daughter coming into the presence of a loving parent, singing a song of praise and thanksgiving as well as manifesting their deepest desires and daily needs.

 

Today’s liturgy, therefore, is the celebration of our filial bond with God.

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