Column: We dare to say
A particularly important change to the words used in the new translation of the Mass comes just before the Our Father. The priest says, “At the Savior’s command, and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say.” It seems strange that we would “dare” to say the Our Father.
It was the custom of our Jewish ancestors never to address God in such familiar terms. In fact it was prohibited to use the name of God in any way other than prayer since to do was seen as a vain usage. To call someone by name is to have power, as when we call someone’s name to attract their attention. If we are not praying to God then it is improper to call Him by name since, in effect, we are calling His attention for an unimportant purpose.
This type of respect for God permeates the Jewish understanding. God is seen as a distant ruler who gave the law to be followed. Even though He guided His chosen people into the Promised Land, the sins of the people separated God from His loved ones.
When Jesus comes along, He speaks in different terms. He is accused of speaking too familiarly about God. In John 5 Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath day. This was reason enough for the Jewish leaders to accuse Jesus since He had commanded the man to pick up his
mat and walk, an act prohibited on the Sabbath day.
Jesus, in response, says: “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.” This incited the Jewish leaders because He not only cured a man on the Sabbath, breaking the rules to abstain from any sort of work, but also called God “Father,” which, as St. John mentions, made Jesus equal to God.
To call God “Father” is certainly a novelty in Christianity. Although many parts of the Old Testament speak of God’s love for the people of Israel in terms of the type of love a Father has for his children, nevertheless this was viewed in terms of the giving of life and much less in the sense of relationship.
The first Christians reflected on the instances when Jesus said, “The Father and I are one,” and, “The Son can do nothing of Himself.” This solidified their faith that Jesus was God in the flesh.
Consider what we celebrate on Good Friday. On the Cross, when He was pierced with a lance, the Scriptures say that blood and water
flowed out of Jesus’ side. In the ancient mentality blood was the source of life and even now we know that blood carries oxygen to all parts of our bodies. Without blood we cannot live and in Jesus, divine blood has been sprinkled on humanity, giving it life and making it God’s own for the first time since the Garden of Eden.
When Jesus teaches His followers how to pray He says, “this is how you are to pray: Our Father …”
God has loved us so much that He has assumed humanity and sacrificed Himself on the Cross for our salvation. In this sense God loves us as a father loves and sacrifices himself for his own children and we have the courage to trust in a personal, familial, loving relationship with God, daring to call Him, “Our Father.”