In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 23, we find a verse that many use to try to discredit the Catholic faith. Jesus said, “Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.”
Some people will point to this verse and say, “See, you Catholics call your priests ‘Father!’ Jesus said not to call anyone on earth father, so your religion MUST be false! Ha!” When someone does this, the first thing you need to ask is what they call their male parent. They may reply Dad or Pop or Daddy or Old Man…you get the gist. So, did Jesus say that we can’t call anyone father? Shouldn’t we strike that word from the language, then? The answer may then come, “Well, Jesus was certainly speaking about spiritual leaders. You can’t call them father!” Apparently St. Paul didn’t get that memo.
In 1 Corinthians 4:15, St. Paul says, “You do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Hmm…sounds like a spiritual leader thing to me? St. Paul also refers to Abraham as “the father of us all.” Obviously, Jesus meant that we are not to attribute the fatherhood of God to any man. (Like Caesar or Pharoah at the time, both of whom claimed to be gods.) Our priests are our spiritual fathers. I hope you’ll thank your priest for his dedication the next time you see him!
Father, we thank you for giving us spiritual fathers here on earth, to lead us and guide us to our Heavenly Father. Bless and keep them close to you always. Amen.