By Francline Jevlon, STAMS Bambui
The spiritual benefits we reap from each Mass attendance are enormous. When we attend and participate fully, consciously and actively (cf Sacrosanctum Concilium - SC No. 14), we live fulfilled.More so, when we attend Mass knowing what we do, knowing the meanings of solemn words we utter and their implications, our minds are filled with grace, Christ our Pasch is consumed and a pledge of future glory is given to us (SC No. 47).
Our sinfulness and our earthly condition should make us actually sink and dissolve into dust, but thanks to the authority of our Father and the Spirit of His Son, we are moved to cry: "Abba, Father" (Gal 4:6). A mere mortal dares to call God, "Father" because his innermost being is given power from on high to address God in straight forward simplicity, in filial trust, in joyous assurance, in humble boldness and in the certainty of being loved.
We only dare to say, "Our Father ..." because in all humility we are conscious that no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. And so this prayer dares to enter into this mystery as He is and as He is revealed to us in his Son. The Son's Personal relation to the Father is something that neither men nor angelic powers, even dimly, can conceive of without a new sense of wonder. We dare to bless and adore him, we dare to glorify him, and we thank him for revealing his name to us; for the gift of believing in him and for the indwelling of his Presence in us.
We are daring because from being wicked servants we have become good sons and daughters and can raise our eyes to the Father who has begotten us in Baptism and redeemed us through his Son. We are daring and so cannot claim any privilege. He is a special Father only to Christ, but is the common Father of us all. He has begotten Christ and has created us (St Ambrose).
We are daring because this invocation implores a continual conversion and a new life, a desire to become like him and a humble and trusting heart of children. We are no longer slaves but sons. We are aware that 'Our Father' arouses love in us and the confidence of obtaining what we are about to ask ... what would He not give his children who ask, since he has already granted them the gift of being His children (St. Augustine).
We are daring to say 'Our Father ...' because on our own, we lack the simplicity that will make us stammer "Abba, Father". In fact there is a resistance in us to say 'Father' these days for many people, which springs from our longing to come of age/fashion. The Father no longer seems to many, as he did to St. Paul, "the guarantor of our freedom", but rather He appears as the opposite of our freedom. We now want rather a "partner", since "Father" is too suggestive of "authority". We are like the younger son (the Prodigal Son) who claimed his inheritance and no longer wanted a Father, but only a future that he created for himself (cf Lk 15:11-32). One who must create himself and his future cannot fail to discover his helplessness. He has no choice but to become a robot in an overwhelming universe and in a society that mercilessly thwarts all his plans (Cf Co-Workers of the Truth, J. Ratzinger, pp 9-10). One, who can dare say "Father" to the Lord of the universe, has a firm foundation for his confidence.
When we dare to say "Our Father ..." we imply that the future belongs to Him and that we are not products of blind chance or absurdity and so must not be satisfied with anything less than Him, less than truth and love or be content with anything less than Christ. We are daring to say that no adversity can paralyze us. We are not afraid of our weaknesses or of the future. The Lord has allowed us to live in this moment of history so that by our faith, his name will continue to resound throughout the world.
By daring to say "Father" I am sure of one thing, that I do not come from myself, that I am a child. He who does not dare acknowledge God as Father is tempted at first to protest this reminder as the prodigal son did. He wants to be "of age", 'emancipated", he wants to be his own master. But what would be our alternative, if we can no longer have a Father, if we have left our Father behind? What would we gain? Are we really free? No! We are only free when there is a principle of freedom, when there is one who loves and whose love is strong. In so doing, we acknowledge the truth about ourselves as our glance falls on Jesus, who was consubstantial with the Father Himself, to Jesus present at Holy Mass in a very special way after Consecration.
Thus, when I say "Father ...", the word automatically calls up the "Our" and when I say "Father", I must include the "we" of all the children of God. But the opposite is also true: when I say "Father" I know that I have entered the company of all the children of God and that they are at my side and that in this company we dare to approach the Lord of Peace. It is for this reason that from this our daring to say "Our Father ..." the word "Peace" appears seven times (a complete Number in the Bible) before we receive the Son of the Father, Jesus Christ, in Holy Communion.