Column: Passage from Wisdom anticipates the Our Father

Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

In 1952, a novel written by Pierrer Boulle called “The Bridge Over the River Kwai” appeared. A bestseller, it was consequently made into a movie.

It tells about a group of British POWs in Burma who are forced by their Japanese captors to build a railroad bridge over a river deep in the jungle. Against all odds and amid great hardships, they succeed in this monumental project. The POWs’ commanding officer takes particular pride in their accomplishment, even though it aims to help the enemy. That is the great paradox of the story.

We tend to love the things that we have made, the works of our hands in which we have invested time and energy. We tend to overlook their downsides. The commanding officer of the POWs who built the bridge over the River Kwai is a good example. So what if the bridge helps the Japanese to move troops and equipment? If that is true for inanimate objects, how much more does that hold true to the life that we have created in the form of our children?

Parents naturally love their children, and, consequently, find it easy to forgive their faults. That is the reasoning that lies behind Sunday’s first reading, Wis 11:22 – 12:2.

Several times, the reading refers to the fact that God has created all things. It advances that as the reason why God loves all things: “For you love all things that are.” And loving them, God forgives them their failings:

“But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!”

In the Old Testament, it is very rare to find the term “Father” applied to God. Even though this passage from the Book of Wisdom does not use the word “Father” in describing God, it otherwise presents us with an image of God quite compatible with that of a loving parent. It paves the way much later for Jesus to frequently use that term in referring to God.

This passage also reminds us of how the qualities of mercy and love stand out whenever we call God “Father.” That is how Jesus taught us to pray in the Our Father. That is the fundamental approach we are to take toward God, as one very willing to overlook our faults and failures.

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