The παρρησία of Abraham and Christ

Church of Pater Noster Our Father Jerusalem
The Church of the Pater Noster on the Mount of Olives

Abraham negotiated with the Judge of the world.  About the possible innocent souls in Sodom and Gomorrah.  In the course of these negotiations, when Abraham had worked the Lord’s cut-off number from fifty down to twenty, Abraham acknowledged, “I have dared speak to my Lord thus.” [Click para leer en español.]

He dared.

Some people grow up scared of their fathers, afraid to ask anything, for fear of bad repercussions.  And some people grow up counting on both parents for understanding and compassion in every possible circumstance.  Abraham had begun to learn that pure prayer to God Almighty involves more childlike confidence than fear.

Ready for some Greek?  I wouldn’t put you through this, but Pope Francis throws this particular Greek word around fairly often.  It appears in the New Testament 41 times.  And it’s in the Catechism.  So we need to know it.

Parrhesia.  Childlike openness, frankness, confidence and boldness.  Speaking with the knowledge that the listener will understand and indulge you.  That the listener loves you.

When you pray, say “Father.”  Father.  In other words, speak with parrhesia.  The disciples had asked the Lord Jesus, “How do we pray?”  When you pray, children, say ‘Father.’  Dare to say, “Father.”

El Greco Christ in PrayerAfter all, Christ revealed in His own prayers and speech what parrhesia is:

“Father, I give You praise, because what You have hidden from the wise and the learned, You have revealed to the merest children.”

“Father, take this chalice from Me.  But not My will, but Yours, be done.”

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

“Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.”

“Father, I pray that they might be one, that I might live in them as You live in Me, and that their joy might be complete.”

“Father consecrate them in truth.”

The incarnate Son spoke to the heavenly Father with consummate parrhesia.  Christ always took for granted the great truth:  the Father knows all, understands all, guides all toward the true good.  “The birds of the air and the flowers of the field neither toil nor spin, yet your Father in heaven provides for them.”

St. Paul expresses what parrhesia means like this:  “Christ pours His Spirit into our hearts, and we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’”

The Roman Catechism of Pope St. Pius V explains:  We call God Father, with the bold confidence of beloved children, because:

  1. He made us out of nothing in His own image and likeness.
  2. He unfailingly provides for our needs by exercising His tender providence.
  3. He redeemed us from the condemnation we deserved through His Son’s perfect sacrifice, and He pours out heavenly grace through the ministry of the Church.

In other words, Almighty God has shown Himself to be the very compassionate, gentle, understanding, and indulgent Father that Abraham boldly talked down from wrath to mercy.  He has shown Himself to be the Father Who patiently waits for our repentance, longs for our reconciliation, forgets our iniquities, forgives the injuries we have done Him, and grants us an altogether fresh start in Christ.

All this makes parrhesia part of our lives in another way, also.  In prayer we speak to the Father with the boldness of beloved children. We also speak with the parrhesia of beloved children before the world, when we speak about the Father.  We exercise parrhesia in prayer and in evangelization.

Not two parrhesias, but one.  Because we know how generous and trustworthy God is, we have nothing to fear from this world.  No matter what we might see on CNN.  No matter what fears our beloved politicians try to stir up in us.  Through it all, we stride forward in confidence to fulfill our mission to make the Good News of the good heavenly Father known.

mac and cheeseChildren don’t imagine that they have to know how a car works.  They just say, “Daddy, can you drive me to the park?”  They don’t imagine that they must understand the chemistry of cooking.  They just say, “Mommy, can you make me some macaroni and cheese?”

Our heavenly Father does not require us to strategize extensively about how to gain souls for His kingdom through artful persuasion and clever tactics.  He can devise tactics a million times more cleverly than we can.  Our role is:  to bear witness.  To offer confident, childlike testimony, wherever and whenever we can.

Testimony that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  That God is the loving and kind Father of the whole human race.  That He rules His kingdom of justice and peace with an open Heart.  That the Holy Mass contains all the riches and wisdom of God.  That the Church is a real family, to which everyone can belong.

Heavenly Father, we boldly ask You lovingly to give us boldness.  We securely petition You for confidence and serenity in prayer, and in all our interactions in this world.  We know that You know what we need before we ask You, and that You grant liberally all that we ask in the name of Your Son.  So we trustingly ask You in the name of Jesus to give us the grace of His unfailing, rock-solid trust in You.

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2 thoughts on “The παρρησία of Abraham and Christ

  1. AND He promised the Holy Spirit would provide the words….marvelous, wonderfull God.

  2. Parrhesia! What a timely “tool” for my Spiritual Recovery! This ‘child’ is subject to spontaneous dis-humble moments too easily triggered by the ignorable, such as, “our beloved ” politicians”. As usual Fr. Mark, you challenge me. Thanks!

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