Abba! Father! (Gal. 4:6)

As I watched a father the other day playing with his toddler-aged son, I was mesmerized. Every time the son would bring him some small trinket, the father would gawk, ooh and ah with an over-exaggerated excitement. Each time the dad would do this, the boy would grow more frantically enthusiastic and bring new treasures — leaves, sticks, a rock, a used styrofoam cup — to his dad. Again, the father would explode with joy and the child would giggle with abandon. This repetitive game was reenacted maybe a dozen times before they fell to the ground together, then packed up and headed out.

I sat for a while after they had gone and thought with deep emotion about my own childhood, my own children and how all of this relates to how I see God. I recalled two quotes I used to use when I taught a parish adult education series on prayer. Both are simple, yet profound. The first is by 4th century theologian, St. Gregory Nazianzen. The second was spoken to me by an elderly priest I used to visit every day in the nursing home during the summer of 1990. I would come to his room every morning at 5:30 a.m. so he could celebrate Mass with me before I went to work.

St. Greg:

God accepts our desires as though they were a great value. He longs ardently for us to desire and love him. He accepts our petitions for benefits as though we were doing him a favor. His joy in giving is greater than ours in receiving. So let us not be apathetic in our asking, nor set too narrow bounds to our requests.

Fr. Albert:

You know Tom, God talks to me. And do you know the first thing He says to me every morning when I wake up and say my first words to Him? “I missed speaking with you while you slept.” Isn’t that wonderful?

4 comments on “Abba! Father! (Gal. 4:6)

  1. Kathy Grobe says:

    Wonderful, indeed.

  2. nos. says:

    I love Fr Albert+++ and st. Greg well what’s not to love, I love st jo pa 11, I love ma Terry, I also love st auggie and his mom st mon. one of my faves. Another fave st al so so many faves in fact all the angels and communion of saints are friends of mine …I hate to be a name dropper Thomas but the THREE IN ONE are personal pals of mine just sayin +++ Thomas you are so funny thanks for making my day. Tell st. Pat hugs and love P.B.W.Y. all always +++

    • I KNOW you are personal pals with the Three. Anyone who knows you up close and personal knows that!
      I am going on a silent retreat in a few weeks (not Conyers) so I will be praying for your Conyers retreat, whenever that is.
      I can taste the silence already

  3. This is from Dismas Dancing, but somehow it would not post through. How blessed we are by your words, DD!
    “Brother Tom,
    What a beautiful reminder of how a “real” Daddy, an “Abba”, becomes the requisite mentor for a son whose being is because together with God, the Father of all, he (the earthly father) participated in the holy and blessed act of co-creation. From that starting point, however, I will offer the following based on a couple of truths of life itself along with seven decades of experience, nearly 50 of which my wife and I have shared together.
    Our eldest will be 47 next month; our youngest 41. There are four: two wonderful and beautiful daughters—both of whom could teach today’s “liberated” females about how to be both fantastic Moms and successful career women. And two manly men who take their roles as fathers, principal examples, mentors, role models, and providers very seriously, even in a world that mocks everything and anything having to do with “manly” men.
    The first point is that we never stop being fathers and mothers to our children. That may sound shockingly obvious; but, my bride and I have seen far too many sad occasions on which parents who, once that child walks down the aisle and says “I will”, wipe their parental hands clean of any further responsibility for their children’s lives. I weep for those parents, for they miss so much yet to be treasured. Yes, there is truth in backing away to a degree. But the tiny wildflower, the withered leaf, the huge toad brought as an honest gift—coming now in the form of a birth of a grandchild, the purchase of a new home, a new and better job—these awesomely beautiful and joyful events, these wonderful gifts, command witness to an origin of love and pride found early on in a young child’s life. What a sign of respect and love (and abject joy for me) when the phone rings and that now-older voice begins excitedly sharing good news. That sharing by and with our kids, regardless of chronological age never, ever goes away, nor can it ever grow old. How can anyone ever throw that away?
    Hearing that joy and happiness in their hearts, we ourselves share with the Heavenly Father (as Fr. Albert adroitly offers) because those happier moments are answers to our petitions placed trustingly in the Father’s Hands. And it all comes from actually listening to God speak to us (my second point). Doesn’t He speak to us when those prayers are answered for them and for us? In today’s world it is extremely difficult to “shut up and listen”. We’re far too accustomed to hearing ourselves vocalize. I know I’m a hypocrite, for I too like hearing myself jabber when I should be listening instead. However, when I have taken the occasion to actively listen, I, like Father Albert, have to smile and delight in my Heavenly Father’s message. For He is always there. He promises us that. In all of that, we must consider also the promises of our Mother, the Holy and Blessed Mother Mary, Queen of heaven and earth. I find great comfort in knowing that she too delights in our sharing both joys and sorrows with her. One of my favorite prayers is the “Memorare”. The reason for my trust in her can be found in the prayer itself:
    “…Oh, most gracious Virgin Mary….never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession……….was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence I fly unto Thee….oh, virgin of virgins, my Mother….Oh, Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but hear and answer me. Amen!”
    My own father was devoted to the Sacred Heart. My mother, similarly devoted to the Blessed Mother, taking her last breath within a minute or two of the final “Amen!” of the Most Holy Rosary my sister prayed with her. Members of “The Greatest Generation” and both active participants in WWII efforts, they taught us much about the prayers, works, joys, and sorrows of being parents active in the development of the beautiful gift of children. May they rest in peace. For me, I expect that my judgment will be severe for my countless transgressions against God’s love. While I obviously pray and work toward salvation and redemption from my iniquities, I pray the Father will look mercifully and kindly at my role as a father in particular, My father prayed that, before he died, he would be able to spend time with his immediate family. God answered that prayer as we all gathered at his bedside a few hours before he allowed himself to let go and be with his Heavenly Father. We heard him humbly thank God and the Sacred Heart for granting him that gift. There really IS beauty in Christian death. I most humbly ask that God grant me the following prayer: that my life as a father has never scandalized my children, that they learned love of God and of their fellow man from my role as a father, and that they, as mothers and fathers, will always seek guidance from Our Lord and His Blessed Mother in all that they do.
    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Holy Family, pray for us!

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