That Catholic Defender: "Call No Man Father"
In modern times family life has adapted to the cultural changes due to a more secular society. Much of our American culture have been affected by these changing norms, the rise of the fatherless homes have increased substantially.
What is important to understand about these changing times is that the role of fathers are the same though distant to many causing many problems. The major area of concern is without fathers in the lives of so many, somehow God the Father has been moved into seclusion. The father is the spiritual head of the family that hopefully gives a positive image of God the Father.
There are small groups of fundamentalists that that have taken the image of God the Father and have applied scripture erroneously indicating their opposition of calling a Catholic priest "Father". I've been challenged on this question many times which gives me the opportunity to share the truth in the matter. I was able to witness the Faith daily with those I met. It was great and I'll always cherish those times.
I recall a time while I was stationed in Germany, a new incoming Soldier was placed in my platoon who would become very important to me. He was drawn to me because of my apparent love for God. He was confused because I am Catholic. He thought that this situation was a contradiction. One night he and a friend of his came to visit me at my home. They wanted to challenge me with this question:
"What about the contradiction that you call your leaders 'Father' and the fact that the bible states in Matthew 23:9 'and call no man your Father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven'. Surly you can not defend this command of the Lord, can you?"
The two of them thought they had me by the Jugular vein when I responded, "Yes I can"! The look on their faces shown how confused they were when I began to explain the Catholic ancient position. As it was in much of the bible, I wanted to explain the importance of context. What seemed to be a contradiction was really the need for the understanding of that context.
This was a great joy for me as I had these two sitting on the edge of their seat. I explained that context dealt with environment, the social norms, traditions, even language needed to be analyzed when looking at scriptural text. This is why Jesus left an authority as a teaching Church, to handle these kinds of questions. 2 Peter 1:20 states, "Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of Scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the Holy Spirit under the influence of God".
I wanted them to see a very important point that they had not considered. Maybe some of you reading this might not know this either, I asked them what they called their leaders? One of them told me we call our leaders "pastor" and they both agreed with "reverend" and "minister" they had heard many times. Then I posed this question back to them:
"Well guys, what do you think of Matthew 23:8 that says, 'Do not be called rabbi (teacher), and verse 10 says, "Do not be called Master.' what do you think these titles "pastor, reverend," and "minister" imply? With that, they kind of looked at each other not exactly knowing how to respond but for me it was easy to connect what Jesus referred to as "rabbi" (teacher) with titles that designate teacher.
By this time I had quieted them down as this began to be a teaching opportunity here. I continued the point:
"If the Apostles would have taken Matthew 23:9 literally, you would see by their example and teaching an obedience to that fact. However, when St. Paul writes to the Corinthians (1 Cor 4:15) he describes himself as a "Father" to his followers.
I shared 1 Corinthians 4:14-17 with them and put this in context:
"I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you, be imitators of me. For this reason I am sending you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord; he will remind you of my ways in Christ [Jesus], just as I teach them everywhere in every church."
I spoke to them, "gentlemen, does not this scriptural text demonstrate a very fatherly message? Check this out, St. Paul is admonishing his listeners as his beloved children. That definitely sounds fatherly to me! Also he refers to St. Timothy as his beloved and faithful son. That again definitely sounds fatherly to me. That is not all, St. Paul called for his followers to imitate him which I also consider fatherly. This is not all, St. Paul himself writes that he is a father to them in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
Now the two visitors were totally confused because they came with what they had was full-proof information but now they just had their bubble popped. I continued the roll, "Did you both know that St. Stephen referred to those who were about to stone him as "fathers" (Acts 7:2)? Also, were you not aware that St. John referred to those who were with Jesus from the beginning in leadership positions as "fathers" (1 John 2:14)?
At this time my wife offered them something to drink to help make them feel a little better as I had them really dazzled. These two were not prepared for what I was sharing with them. But that was not all as I presented Jesus telling the story of the rich man and the poor man. Notice what Jesus states in this scriptural text:
"And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames." "Yes gentlemen, Jesus Himself refers to Abraham as "Father" Abraham, game, set, match!"
I then explained that Abraham's original name means "Father", Abraham means "Father" of many nations. Knowing that my wife was about to have sloppy Joes ready for supper, I ended my this session with the original question, "What did Jesus mean with Matthew 23:9"? Jesus was addressing the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Jesus at this time really lowers the boom on the Pharisees calling them hypocrites, blind guides, blind fools, and whitewashed tombs. They did acts in public for all to see, wore titles of honor to demonstrate how important they were.
Jesus makes the comparison to contras the honor given to God the Father and the honor demanded by the Pharisees. Jesus had a dim view of what the Pharisees had become. There was more I could have used such as Ephesians 6:2-4, I thought about it a second and then thought to myself, ah, why not? I shared it anyway:
"Children, obey your parents [in the Lord], for this is right. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise, “that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life on earth.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord."
When this particular evening was done one major domino fell and one of the two Soldiers that came calling on me was later received into the Catholic faith and I was blessed to Sponsor him. What a great night this was.
Most gracious Lord Jesus, only in You is redemption and forgiveness of sins. Please enlighten Your lost lambs to see the truth. Flood their heart with light so that they can understand the confident hope You have given to Your holy people. Bring them to conversion so they might share in Your rich and glorious inheritance. May they grow in the knowledge of You, with wisdom and insight, being made full and complete in Your body, the Holy Catholic Church. Amen.