The Forgiving Father


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In my first post at New Evangelizers, I used the analogy of fatherhood to understand why God may allow pain and tolerate bad behavior. God is the source of fatherhood, so human fatherhood tells us something about God, and God’s fatherhood tells us something about our own. That analogy teaches us, also, something about how God forgives us and how we should forgive others.

What does a good father do when his child seeks forgiveness? A good father embraces his child and forgives, whether it is the first time or the thousandth.

The good father also instructs. He tells his child to do something that will show she is sorry. “Go and apologize – and mean it!” “That’s coming out of your allowance.” He tells his child to do something that will help her to grow. Maybe the mistake is too big to fix directly, but something can be done.

At confession, God, our father, welcomes us with open arms. (c.f. Luke 15:11-32) He accepts our often-imperfect contrition and our repeated mistakes. In the sacrament of confession, we run to Daddy and say we’re sorry, and know we’re forgiven. There, God acts through the priest to forgive us, to comfort and counsel us. There He gives us some small thing we do—perhaps not to “make up for it” but to show our contrition and to grow in our Christian life.  Confession is an application of God’s fatherhood of us.

Human fatherhood is a reflection–and an imperfect one–of God’s fatherhood. As a father, then, I have to ask myself: am I an image of God when my son runs to me? What are my words and looks and actions teaching him about God the Father? What is my forgiveness teaching him about the sacrament?

For my failings there, too, I have to go to my own Father for forgiveness. But, each time, I try to image His divine fatherhood better. He is our model, our Father in Heaven, from whom all fatherhood and forgiveness ultimately comes.

Copyright © 2014, Joe Wetterling

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Joe Wetterling

Joe Wetterling

Joe Wetterling is a professional educator, homeschooling dad, and writer. He's appeared at national conferences, both secular and religious, speaking on education, technology, and philosophy. Joe writes online for New Evangelizers, as well as his own blogs. He's taught in the Holy Apostles MOOC program and currently teaches Natural Theology at the new Dominican Institute. He's a member of the Militia Immaculata and current President of the Catholic Writers Guild. Learn more about him at JoeWetterling.com.

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