Editor’s Note: In order to promote study and preparation for the millennium jubilee, Crisis hereby grants permission to reproduce this study guide at will for group use.
Preparation for the millennium is now well under way. This final year is dedicated to God the Father and is “aimed at broadening the horizons of believers so that they will see things in the Christ’s perspective, who sees the ‘Father who is in heaven.’ (cf. Mt. 5:45), from whom the Lord was sent and to whom he has returned (cf. Jn. 16:28).” (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 49)
Pope John Paul II describes the Christian life as a pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love can be discovered every day. This journey requires authentic conversion, which calls for both liberation from sin and choosing the good. Like the prodigal son, our reconciliation will be an occasion of great joy. But how are we to come to know the Father? The Catechism emphasizes the two primary ways we can come to know the Father: through His works and through His Son.
Creation itself manifests the glory of the Creator, so our reflection on creation gives us knowledge of God. However, an even surer knowledge of God’s being is progressively revealed in His covenant with Israel, which reaches final culmination in the Incarnation and Redemption brought through the Son, for the Son came to make the Father known. By reflecting on how God creates and recreates His people, we can come to know Him as our Father.
How to Use This Guide
Each of the following reflections presents the major elements of the Church’s teaching on the Father as developed in the Catechism. They are meant to help families and other small groups of individuals begin to reflect prayerfully on the significance of the Father and His mission as a preparation for the millennium. Try to set aside an hour each week to go through the Catechism and the corresponding scriptural references, discussing them with your families or in small groups from your parish. For each section do the following:
Read the selections from the Catechism seeking to understand the main points of consideration. Then, read the synopsis, which is meant to highlight certain aspects of the doctrine. Discuss what is most important about this doctrine and why.
Look up the Scripture references. Consider how they illustrate the doctrinal teaching. Notice how Catholic doctrine is a further development of the biblical witness.
Beginning with the discussion questions, consider how the doctrinal teaching relates to your own life and what you need to do to appropriate this teaching in a more personal way.
Using the Scriptures for further reference, spend the remainder of your week reflecting on this aspect of the Church’s doctrine, not just as an isolated teaching, but as it relates to the whole of the Catholic faith.
I Believe in One God
Read Sections 198-202
The desire for God is written on the human heart: “Our hearts were made for you, O God, and will not rest until they rest in you” (St. Augustine). The faith of the Church professes its belief in God, who is the beginning and end of all things. This faith is a response to God, who chooses to reveal Himself to man. The revelation of God in the Old Testament insisted that Yahweh, the God of Israel, was the one and only God. Israel was God’s chosen people, the ones to whom He first revealed his plan of the Covenant. Through Israel all nations would come to know the Lord, their God. This insistence on the oneness of God reflects the profound conviction that there can be only one who is eternal, infinite, and unchanging. Yet the faith of the Church also professes that God is Trinity. This “threeness” does not refer to the “substance” of God, which is undivided, but to the dynamic communion of persons that God is. The dignity of man rests in the fact that he is called to communion with God (Gaudium et Spes, 19).
Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Hear O Israel the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.
Psalm 62, Only in God is my soul at rest.
How does God reveal himself?
In what ways do we have communion with God?
Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 46:9-10; Micah 7:18-20
The Revelation of God’s
Name Read Sections 203-213
It was not enough for God to reveal His existence to the Israelites, for He wanted them to know Himself. God therefore revealed His name to the people of Israel through Moses on Mt. Sinai: Yahweh, I am who I am. This revelation of a personal name expresses the essence and identity of God as a person, not an impersonal force. The revelation of the divine name makes Yahweh accessible to the Israelites; from that point on they knew Him on whom they called. The revelation is not a one-time event but a gradual unfolding of the inner mystery of God’s person. As the Israelites progressed in their relationship with God, He made known to them in a deeper way the depths of His love. When Israel sinned and broke the covenant He revealed Himself as a merciful and forgiving God. It is this forgiveness that enables man to stand in the presence of God and serve Him.
Exodus 3:4-22, the revelation to Moses
Exodus 34:5-9, covenant renewal
How is knowledge of God’s name significant?
What does it mean not to take the Lord’s name in vain?
Exodus 20:7; Psalm 113; Isaiah 29:23
He Who is Truth and Love
Read Sections 214-227
The Catechism sums up the divine attributes with references to truth and love. God, who is absolute wisdom, speaks with words that endure forever. He who cannot deceive or be deceived is totally faithful to His word. We therefore can place total reliance on God’s word, trusting Him to provide as the good and loving Father that He is. Jesus came to bear witness to the truth, to give us the saving knowledge of God. He reveals the unconditional love of the Father, who never stops pardoning and forgiving His wayward children, provided that they turn to Him. Throughout Scripture this love is compared to that of a father for his son, a mother for her children, a husband for his bride. This rich imagery helps us to begin to enter into the mystery of God’s love.
John 8:31-32, You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
John 4:7-21, Everyone who loves has knowledge of God.
What is the importance of truth in our lives?
In what ways does God’s love call forth a response on our part?
John 14:6; Romans 8:35-39; Titus 3:4¬8
The Father Revealed By the Son and Spirit
Read Sections 232-248
The central mystery of the Christian faith is that God is Trinity. It s the mystery of God in Himself that Jesus came to reveal. It is a mystery that can only be understood in faith. By calling God our Father, we acknowledge that He is the origin of all things and, at the same time, that He cares for us not merely as creatures but as His children. In the Old Testament, Israel had begun to sense the Fatherhood of God in His loving concern for creation, in the covenant relationship He established, and in His specific concern for the poor. Jesus brings this revelation to a new level. God is not only Father by being Creator, He is eternally Father in relationship to the Son. Because only the Son knows the Father as He is, only the Son can make the Father known. The Spirit, which is the bond of union between the Father and Son, proceeds from both, becoming the bond of union between the Church and the Trinity.
Matthew 11:25-27, No one knows the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom He wishes to reveal Him.
Matthew 28:18-20, Baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
How does Jesus deepen the revelation of God as Father?
How does the Spirit guide us into the truth about God?
Luke 11:2-4; Luke 24:49; John 14:6-7
He Who is Father
Read Sections 249-267
The doctrine of the Trinity was gradually formulated as the Church deepened her reflection on the Trinitarian mystery. The term “substance” was used to specify the unity of the divine being. The term “person” was used to specify the distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To say “God is one” does not mean “God is solitary.” Rather, a communion of persons exists between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is a real distinction between the three persons, a distinction that resides in Their relationships to one another, but that distinction does not destroy the unity. Hence, when we refer to the work of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, we may attribute to the Father the work of Creation, to the Son the work of Redemption, and to the Spirit the work of Sanctification. Yet all three create, redeem, and sanctify, because They have but one will and one intellect.
John 14:8-21, Lord, Show us the Father.
Ephesians 1:3-14, The Father’s plan of salvation, fulfilled through Christ, in the Spirit
How is the Trinity at work in salvation history?
What is the Father’s distinctive relationship to the Son and Spirit?
Corinthians 8:5-6; 2 Corinthians 13:13; Ephesians 4:4-6
Read Sections 268-278
The Creed, prayed in the liturgy, makes explicit mention of God’s omnipotence under the title “the Father Almighty.” The power of God that this refers to should not be thought about in terms of our understanding of earthly power. As the Catechism states, God’s power is universal, loving, and mysterious. All creation is subject to Him, but not in a way that is arbitrary, for He is almighty specifically as Father. His exercise of power is an exercise of loving concern for the well-being of His children. The mystery of His power comes into view when we wonder why He does not exercise His power the way most of us would prefer, a point best illustrated by our confrontation of the question of evil and suffering. But in accordance with His wisdom, He exercises His power through seeming weakness. The weakness of the Cross, though, ultimately gives way to the Resurrection and Exaltation of the Son.
Isaiah 40:12-31, The power of God to save
Corinthians 1:18-25, The wisdom and power of God
What are some differences between the use and abuse of power?
In what ways was Mary a witness to faith in God’s power?
Genesis 17:1-2; Revelation 4:8; Psalm 91
He Who Is Creator
Read Sections 279-292
Creation is all that is other than God, for God is the Creator of all that is seen and unseen. Unlike materialists, who acknowledge only what they can see and touch, Christians acknowledge that the expanse of God’s creation includes both heaven and earth, both material and spiritual reality. Man bridges the gap between matter and spirit by sharing in both worlds. Thus he has the task of standing in the image of God. Faced with his existence in the world, man must ask the perennial questions: Who am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going? Man is therefore concerned about both his origin and his end. These two aspects must be seen in relation to one another, for they are essential to the question of life’s ultimate meaning. Man has been given both reason and revelation to explore these questions. As the Catechism states, the Creator can be known with certainty by His works, through the light of reason. Yet because sin has darkened our intellect, faith must come to the aid of reason if we are to know God as He desires to be known.
Psalm 19, The Heavens declare the glory of God.
Genesis 1:26-28, God creates man in His image.
How is “Father” a deeper revelation of “Creator”?
How does man reflect the image of God?
Sirach 42:15-25; Psalm 148:1-6; Genesis 1:31
He Who Is Glorious
Read Sections 293-301
The world was created for the glory of God: not out of chance, not out of necessity, neither to increase His glory, nor to express His perfection. God has no need of creation, yet He freely chooses to create and in doing so shows His glory. He creates not for His own happiness—for He is complete in himself—but to bestow His beatitude on His creatures. He freely chooses to allow creatures to share in His being, wisdom, and goodness. God creates out of nothing. He has no need of anything in order to create as human artisans do, nor is creation some sort of emanation of divine substance. God is infinitely greater than His works, yet He chooses to uphold and sustain His creation, not only bringing them into existence but bringing them to their final end. It belongs to our dignity as human beings to acknowledge and respect the source of our being and love, serve, and adore the infinite wisdom and glory of God.
Romans 8:18-25, Creation awaits the glory of God.
Revelation 21:1-7, A new Heaven and a new Earth
What is the relationship between God as creator and re-creator?
How is the glory of the Creator manifest through His creatures?
Psalm 104; Peter 4:19; 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 .4.