In the marvelous letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, there is a high point of all of Sacred Scripture. It is the place where Saint Paul reflects upon the fact that by means of our baptism, we are adopted into God’s family; we become his children by adoption, and therefore heirs of his glory, just as any adopted child receives a legal right to the family possessions of the parents. And if we are heirs of God’s glory, then we are, as St. Paul says, “co-heirs with Christ.” And for that reason, we have a right to call God the Father “Abba.” Now, Saint Paul explains that “Abba” means “father.” That’s true enough, but it does not totally translate the term. “Abba” was not the normal word “father” in Hebrew, but rather was the childlike, intimate, tender way by which small children addressed their fathers. It corresponded to our “papa” or “daddy.”
In the gospel of Saint Mark, we find Jesus addressing his father in that way during his terrible agony in the garden the night before he died. We must understand how very significant it is for us to call God by a term of endearment, of tenderness, of affection. You remember the time when someone asked Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” In answer, Jesus picked a small child out of his listeners and stood the child in front of his audience. “Anyone who becomes a little child like this is greatest in the kingdom of my Father,” he said. He made it clear that he wants us to relate to God the way a 2- or 3-year old child relates to a kind, wise, and loving father. I remember when I was a child, the pastor of my parish was an elderly priest who had been born in Germany. When he spoke of God in the pulpit at Mass, he always talked about “Almighty God.” Somehow, even at that young age, the term didn’t sit well with me. I knew that God is almighty, but I didn’t think of him in those terms. It isn’t easy to relate intimately, affectionately, with an ALMIGHTY being. How much easier it is to relate to “Papa” or “Daddy.” So, my dear friends, let us try to be childlike in our relationship with God. Trusting, loving, obedient, affectionate, and aware of our littleness in comparison with our heavenly father, who is also our maker. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This Message was composed some years ago.