The Forgotten Father

The Church celebrated the Feast of Our Lady under the title “Mother of the Church” on Monday (May 20).  Although the title has been in use as early as St Ambrose in the fourth century, it has only come to prominence in latter days, with Pope Francis establishing the feast day for the universal Church in 2018.  
He has asked that the feast be associated with Pentecost, which is seen as the birthday of the Church, with the Holy Spirit coming upon the apostles and sending them out to preach the Gospel.  It seems very appropriate that the Monday after Pentecost should host this feast day.  One day we celebrate the “new baby,” so to speak, and the following day we congratulate the mother!
This feast reflects the link between Annunciation, Pentecost, and Mary.  If the Son of God, the eternal Word, became “embodied” in the womb of the Virgin, overshadowed by the Spirit, Pentecost involves the same Spirit that now “embodies” the Apostles and Mary in the Upper Room, creating the Christian Community, the Body of Christ on earth.  Mary is present equally and essentially on both occasions in her maternal role.
But this celebration of Mary’s motherhood, an extension of her primary title as “Mother of God,” raises questions about the other parent of the Church.  Does the Church not need a father or is it simply a clone of Mary?
Now, it’s tempting to answer that this role is fulfilled by St Joseph, and one might think that Pope Francis would have been consistent in adding another liturgical feast with this title.  After all, the Pope has special devotion to the foster father of Jesus, by including his name in the Eucharistic Prayers after his wife!
But (no insult to Joseph) the Church has a divine Father, the heavenly one, the Father of Jesus.  He is the one who sends His Spirit on Mary at the Annunciation and sends the very same Spirit on the Apostles at Pentecost.  
So why is there no feast day of God, the Father, “Father of the Church”?  If we are the body of Christ / Church praying the Lord’s Prayer, then logically, God is the Father of the Church through the Holy Spirit.
Thinking along these lines, I was left wondering if the heavenly Father has not become the forgotten person of the Holy Trinity?  Jesus is the central figure of the Trinity as the human face of God.  Christianity is all about Christ and to see Him is to see the Father.  Yet in practice, focus on the person of Christ may hide the Father from view.  Sometimes I feel like Philip the Apostle in the Gospel crying out to Jesus, “Show us the Father and we shall be satisfied” (Jn 14:8).
The Holy Spirit was once thought to be the forgotten member, but Pentecostalists and Charismatic Renewal have done a lot to bring that Person to our attention.  And, at least, we have a feast-day, Pentecost, to centre our attention on the Spirit, as well as the special sacrament of Confirmation to emphasise his role in the Christian life.
Why then is the Father so often forgotten?  Some people point the finger at the feminist movement, which has highlighted the oppression of women by men down through the centuries.  
Rule by fathers or ‘Patriarchy’ appears to be an almost universal feature of human social organisation since Adam, the first Father, had to sacrifice a “spare rib” in the Book of Genesis to bring Eve into existence.  And all the great figures of the Bible are mainly men, the Patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David.  Where are the women prophets among the list of men?
Then there is the image of God as Father, who is so angry about the insult of human sin that he sends his Son to redress the imbalance of human sinfulness, to appease his anger.  This is the one Jesus cries out to on the cross, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34).  
No wonder, then, that popular religion, is fearful of the Father and turns to Mary and the saints for its core spirituality.  We need to go through them to this stern judgemental, frowning old man so concerned about his good name.  
In one of the prefaces for Mass at Easter we are even invited to pray the words in which Jesus is said to “plead our cause before the Father” as he sits on His right hand!  Is our Heavenly Father still so upset with us that our brother Jesus must “plead” for us?  Has his death and resurrection not been enough?
But this is not the God revealed by Jesus, who says to Philip: “To have seen me is to have seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).  The parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15) has given rise to the suggestion that it ought to be renamed the parable of “The Prodigal Father,” since he loves both sons who fail to appreciate Him.  
God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, not to condemn but to save the world” (Jn 3:16).  This is the Father who sends his Spirit as the comforter to us, in whose house there are many rooms and where the red carpet is already out to welcome us home.  
So, there is some justification to suggest the need for a Feast-day of the “Father of the Church,” even though in every Mass we stand side by side with Jesus offering ourselves with Him to the Father and praying to the One to whom Jesus ascended, having foretold this to Mary Magdalene in His first words after His resurrection: “Go tell my disciples, I am ascending to my Father AND YOUR FATHER, to my God and your God” (Jn 20:17).
Let’s not forget the love of the Father who gave his most precious Son to us to bring us eternal life and who continues to send the Spirit of His Son to comfort us in our trials.
As Jesus leaves this world, he comforts his disciples, saying: “I will not leave you orphans” (Jn 14:18).   
And he is true to His word, for now we can celebrate our two parents, the Church’s Mother and Father.
Kieran ofm