Today is the feast day of St. Luke the Evangelist. His gospel is filled with numerous observations and meditations about God as our heavenly Father. A closer reading of St. Luke’s gospel gives us a better idea about the specific characteristics of God who is truly Our Father in the Lord’s Prayer, God the Father almighty in the Creed, and the ultimate role model for us men who would do well to try and apply some of these characteristics in our own lives as fathers and husbands.
In Mary’s Magnificat (Lk 1: 46-55), God’s “greatness” is extolled (Lk 1: 46), He is described as “Mighty” and his name is “holy” (49). Mary acclaims God’s “mercy” through the generations (50) and for Israel (54), illustrates God as a provider of food (“The hungry he has filled with good things;…”) (53) and recognizes He has “helped” Israel (54). In the Canticle of Zechariah (Lk 1: 68-79), Zechariah says God is “Blessed” and brought “redemption” to His people (68), keeps his promises made through the prophets (70), show(s) “mercy,” and is “…mindful of His holy covenant…” (72, 78), and “rescued” (Zechariah’s people) “…from the hand of enemies,…” (74). Chief among all God’s attributes and accolades from both Mary and Zechariah is that of God’s mercy, which is mentioned four times, twice from each of them. In their canticles, Mary and Zechariah make explicit the implicit character of God in the narrative.
The family of Jesus is not constituted by physical relationship with Him, but by obedience to the Word of God (Lk 8: 21). This idea of obedience builds on St. Luke’s earlier reference of Mary’s obedience as the handmaiden of the Lord (Lk 1: 38). “Take nothing for the journey…” illustrates the absolute detachment required of the disciple (Lk 14: 33) (which) leads to complete reliance on God (Lk 12: 22-31). Obedience to God and complete reliance on God are, in effect, two sides of the same issue which highlight humanity’s relationship with Him. St. Luke stresses the importance of a deep, intense, personal relationship with the Almighty and frequently emphasizes God’s significant role as the one and only omnipotent benefactor who is present, active and caring in the lives of Jesus’s contemporaries, i.e., those to whom Jesus was teaching and preaching.
St. Luke also highlights the fatherhood of God and acknowledges Him as the One from whom the Christian disciple seeks daily sustenance (Lk 11: 3), forgiveness (Lk 11: 4) and deliverance from the final trial (Lk 11: 4). God is recognized as a fatherly King whose kingdom is coming (Lk 11: 2; 17: 20-21). God is mentioned in the rabble’s demand for Barabbas, even though they are not, in truth, asking for the real “Son of the Father” (Lk 23: 18-19). While dying on the cross, Jesus addresses His Father and says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23: 34), and “Father, into your hands I commend My Spirit” (Ps 31: 6; Lk 23: 46). In emphasizing God as a Father for Himself and everyone else, particularly and especially at the critical moment when He was to fulfill His mission on earth, Jesus is demonstrating how a relationship with God the Father is something that needs to be prioritized, cherished and worked on during life, right up to the very last minute.
Jesus Himself echoes Mary’s and Zechariah’s references to God’s mercy: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6: 36). And, of course, Christ teaches His disciples how to pray to the Father and gives them an insight to His benevolent Character as He extols God’s “…hallowed…name…” (Lk 11: 2), mentions His kingdom (indicative of His Kingship) (2), and as previously mentioned, recognizes God as provider of their daily bread (3) and forgiver of sins (4).
St. Luke shares numerous positive qualities and characteristics of God which call attention to His power and His roles as protector and provider. The concepts of obedience to and dependence upon God highlight God’s omnipotence and magnanimity in the course of human experience. And, of course, through the words of Jesus, St. Luke repeatedly mentions God in a fatherly capacity which implies a familial relationship between people and their Creator. God loves His people, cares for their best interests and lives up to His commitment to the covenantal relationship between Himself and “…those on whom His favor rests” (Lk 2: 14).