There was one time I heard a father talk about an incident in the kitchen with his 2-year-old son. He was about to make him lunch when the phone rang and the father went to answer it. As he was talking on the phone, he turned around to see his son, Anthony, climb up on the kitchen counter and grab a steak knife. He began to crawl around the countertop with the knife. The father immediately dropped the phone, ran over to take the knife from him, picked him up, and embraced Anthony by saying, “You can’t do that. You are going to hurt yourself.”
All of us are God’s children and yet there are times where we put ourselves in harm’s way by the sins that we commit. Sometimes we don’t know the destruction that these sins can cause us. God doesn’t just stand back and shake his head saying, “Jeez, what is he/she doing now? Isn’t he/she ever going to learn?” When we put ourselves in harm’s way, God runs to us. He takes us into his arms and holds us. He wants to throw away anything that we are clinging to.
That image of the Father is the one that Jesus has when we hear Him pray to His Father lovingly and confidently in today’s Gospel. He is praying to the Father for all of us, the ones striving for holiness and even the worst sinners that do not seem to want to change. In this prayer, He knows that He is about to be manhandled by the plotting and blind religious leaders. He knows that one of His closest friends is going to betray Him. He knows that most of the rest of His friends will abandon Him on the cross – except for His mother and a few brave disciples. And yet, even though He knows all of this, He knows most of all that He must die on the cross so that we don’t see the Father as a vengeful God out to get us, but as a Father who wants to embrace all sinners lovingly.
This week and beyond, the challenge for all of us is to listen to Him in prayer for the things that are keeping us from growing closer to God. In prayer, we work with him so that he can show us more and more that the Cross is about us seeing the depths of a Father’s love so that we drop the things that harm us and keep us from eternal life with Him.