Yesterday, we looked at Jesus’ words about the need to drink His blood and eat His body unto our salvation. Today, I want to take it into other territory commonly occupied by anti-Catholic legends.
Bosco, as many Protestants does, asks why we call priests ‘father’ when Matthew 23:9 says not to; oddly, like everyone else I have ever met, he does not rail about us calling our ‘teachers’ teacher, although Matthew 23:10 is equally clear; so how can it be that men who call their teacher by that name, find it so hard to call a father, father? One suspects that they call their male parent ‘father’, so it is hard not to conclude that they concentrate on this point because it allows them to attack the Catholic Church; that it attacks the Orthodox is, in all probability, something few of them realise.
Now, if we never called our male parent ‘father’, it would mean, effectively, that we would not understand what it means to call God ‘Father’; if we never used the word of our male parent, how would we begin to understand what the word meant? So, unless we hold that Jesus wanted no one to understand what it meant to use the word father, we must conclude that he meant something else by it; what?
Jesus calls his disciples to be teachers, and St Paul calls his congregation children, as does St John, so the idea that Jesus wants no one to be called teacher or father is clearly not correct, as Scripture itself demonstrates. Jesus’ remarks have to be read in context. The context of Matthew 23 is his exasperation with the failure of the Pharisees and the effects he knows it is going to have on the Jews and his beloved Jerusalem. Jesus often uses hyperbole to make his points. Not even the most fundamentalist fundie actually rips out his right eye or cuts off his right hand, they realise, here, that Jesus is exaggerating to make a point; but when he does it here, in the cases of ‘father’ they ignore that, even though they do ignore it in the case of the word ‘teacher’.
If Jesus had meant there should be no teachers or fathers, then his disciples would not have referred to their flocks as children. We see what Jesus meant when we read Paul to the Corinthians:
For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
Ironically, what Jesus, like Paul, is telling us, is not to believe self-appointed teachers/fathers, who claim to be our spiritual fathers and to guide us, for they, like the Pharisees, are blind and God will tell them he knew them not. Only those who, like Paul, beget us through the Gospel are fit to be called spiritual fathers. The irony is, of course, that it is precisely the self-appointed infallibilists, those who tell us that they have some gnostic, privileged access to what the Gospel means, who instruct us as though they were our spiritual fathers, and in so doing, they are the ones contravening the real meaning of the words of Our Lord. Those who argue otherwise can come back when they have plucked out that eye which has sinned.