May 8, 2024 at 7:00 a.m.

Who’s your daddy?

Place Jesus at the center of our lives and grant to him his rightful place on the throne of our hearts
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger

By Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

Did you know that Jesus called his Father, Daddy? That is how the Aramaic title, Abba, translates into English. It is the same word by which Jesus introduces the prayer that we all know as the “Our Father,” and it contains all of the tender and familiar connotations by which a child addresses his or her daddy. This tells us something about how Jesus feels in relationship to God, and it should tell us something about God, “and no one knows the Father except the Son” (Mt 11:27). So, is it too bold to ask, “Who’s your daddy?”

I remember attending a playoff game one year, it might have been the Yankees against the Red Sox and, as you can imagine, the rivalry was keen. Someone in the crowd started the chant, “Who’s your daaaady?” I don’t remember which side, but it was clear from the context that the message was that our team is dominating yours. The expression in its slang usage often bears an even more nefarious meaning, implying subjugation and control, even in a sexually abusive sense. It’s ugly. I will not belabor the point except to say that there is nothing a human being despises more than to be the servant or slave of another, to be beholden to someone else’s fancies and designs. We have a natural desire for freedom.

So many wars, including the American Revolution, were waged over the simple demand to be free. In that historical context, it was primarily the excessive taxation imposed by the British monarch that sparked the rebellion we call the “Boston Tea Party.” We may not yet be at that point again in our society, but we experience even today many forms of oppression such as the escalation of censorship of speech that we have seen on college campuses and even in certain workplaces where some people are afraid of even saying whom they intend to vote for. 

More pernicious even are the “unfreedoms” of so many addictive behaviors, not only the obvious forms of substance abuse, but also the more subtle scourges of internet-based compulsiveness to social media, shopping, gaming and pornography, just to name a few. In all such cases, the consumer is caught up in patterns that he or she has become so possessed by that they no longer are free. It is fair to say that the addiction has become their idol or “daddy.”

One of the first things Jesus announced when he began the proclamation of the Gospel was “to proclaim liberty to captives,” citing the prophet Isaiah (cf. Lk 4:18). Jesus wants us to be free, to be able to be ourselves, not someone or something else’s subjects. This is one reason why tyrants of all stripes fear him and the faith we proclaim in his name. In the Acts of the Apostles we read how repeatedly attempts were made to lock down the Apostles, but there was to be no chaining the word of the Lord (cf. Acts 5:12-42, 12:1-19).

Jesus wants us to be free! What he does to accomplish this is to take on the sinful addictions that oppress us and nail them to the cross so that they can die with him. If we are willing to do the same — literally, nail our sins and addictions to his cross — he will free us from them by becoming our true substance and sustenance, our food and drink. It is his body and blood that enable us to dethrone and abandon the addictive tyrants that want to be our daddy and dominate us. By making God our father — the Father of Jesus and “our Father” — we find our freedom and we find ourselves.

Most of us recognize that the desire to be oneself, to find one’s true identity, is essential to human happiness. Many people struggle today from various questions and euphorias about their personal identity, sometimes even placing labels on them. God does not put labels on us. Whenever Jesus encounters a person who is suffering from some deformity, be it of a physical or social nature, he first addresses the person as a human being, not a disease. “What do you want me to do for you?” is his first question (Mt 20:32, Mk 10:46-52, Lk 18, 41-43). It may seem obvious what the blind or infirm person wants, but Jesus does not address the disability but the person first. When he encounters the paralytic his first words are “your sins are forgiven” — doubtless something Jesus knew he was most in need of (Mt 9:1-8, Mk 2:3-12, Lk 5:18-26). This almost seems like a precondition for the physical healing, being in right order with the plan of God for our sanctification. 

St. Thomas pointed out that living in accord with God’s commandment of love, living a life of virtue, is what brings happiness. There is a vital connection among goodness, happiness and holiness. The Beatitudes are typically translated with the English word “Blessed” at the beginning. However, another translation which renders the word as “Happy” is not at all off the mark. The holy person is a happy person — holy in the sense of being aligned with the divine order, the living out of the holiness of God.

Jesus did not lay out an elaborate plan. He simplified his commandments into the two greatest ones: love of God and love of neighbor (cf. Mt 22:34-45). Simply said, this means to put God at the center of our life and from this to allow that love to flow out to our neighbor. In Jesus, the incarnate word of God, we find both. To worship Jesus is both to worship and honor God and to serve our neighbor, inasmuch as Jesus identifies, in his humanity, with our neighbor: “you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

Anyone who complains that so much of Church teaching is about rules and regulations should take comfort in the simplicity of the fundamental mission of the Gospel: to place Jesus at the center of our lives, dethroning the tyrants and idols that seek to dominate us and granting to him his rightful place on the throne of our hearts. In so doing we will both be rendering praise to God and loving our neighbor, fulfilling the greatest commandments, the ones essential for salvation. If we follow this pattern in our lives, then we can dare to say “Our Father,” calling the father of Jesus our own, for he will be then our only true daddy.


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