In Jesus time on earth, the Pharisees and Scribes were looked to as interpreters of faith and morals. Their learning and the respect people had for the Torah gave them many social privileges.
However, in the name of Moses and the Law of God they imposed burdens on the people of Israel (Matthew 20:25). Like the priests Malachi condemned in today’s First Reading, they caused many to falter on their path to God's eternal Kingdom.
These spiritual leaders of Israel failed to be caring fathers of God’s people. Moses, on the other hand, was a humble father-figure, preaching the law by practising it – living it – interceding and begging God’s mercy and forgiveness for the people’s sins (Exodus 32:9-14; Psalm 90).
Jesus reminds us today that all fatherhood – whether in the nuclear family or for the people of God – comes from “our Father” in heaven (see Ephesians 3:15). The one and eternal Father.
Jesus doesn’t mean we’re literally to call no man “father.” He himself referred to Israel’s founding fathers (John 7:42) and the Apostles taught about natural fatherhood (Hebrews 12:7-11), and described themselves as spiritual fathers (1 Corinthians 4:14-16)
The fatherhood of the Apostles and their successors: priests and bishops, as well as the spiritual parenthood given to the Church as a whole is meant to raise us as God’s children. All of us are given new life in baptism, and are fed with the spiritual milk of the Gospel and the Eucharist (1 Peter 2:2-3).
St. Paul, in today’s Epistle, affirms that the Church needs to do as he has done in acting as a nursing mother.
This so-called binary reality of parenthood: father and mother, is something that is challenged today in secular Western society through the politics of sex and gender; but parenthood of mother and father is foundational not only to the Church but to any healthy society. Today, people are losing their jobs at teaching institutions for saying just this, for saying what has been accepted since the beginnings of human civilization.
God’s nurturing parenthood, of course, transcends all human notions of fatherhood and motherhood ( Psalm 131:1-3, Isaiah 66:13) but also affirms the binary nature of human life as given to us by God “and God created them male and female” (Genesis) Anomalies in human physiology must, of course, be dealt with compassionately gut notwithstanding, anomalies should not shape social norms but rather be shaped by Truth, the given Truth of revelation and the magisterium – the teaching authority of the Church which guides us in faith and morals.
Jesus has shown us the Father (John 14:9) coming to gather His children as a hen gathers her young (Matthew 23:37). We’re all brothers and sisters, our Lord tells us today. And all of us and especially our spiritual parents and teachers – are to trust in Jesus, humbly, like children on a mothers’ laps and guard the family of faith.
Malachi 1:14-2:2, 8-10; Psalm 131:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, 13; Matthew 23:1-12