A student recently asked me why the most recent translation of the Mass prefaces the Our Father with these words:
…at the Savior’s command, and formed by divine teaching, we dare to pray…’
It was particularly the word ‘dare’ that stuck out to him, as it seemed odd to suggest that something we’ve been doing most of our lives (praying the Lord’s prayer) was a daring action. I’ve written previously about the concept of divine sonship – using the relationship of father/son (parent/child) to help us understand the closeness God desires to have with us. When one understands that he or she is loved unconditionally, they become capable of incredible things. This is why the image of God as a Father and we as His beloved sons and daughters is woven throughout scripture. St. John writes: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
The danger with a relationship seen only through this lens is that children don’t automatically see the responsibilities that come with their relationship. A child growing up on a farm may love the farm animals and not comprehend that he or she will be required to do simple chores to help maintain that farm (and if that same child eventually inherits the farm, they’ll need to learn and do all the work!) This is why St. Paul writes about the other side of this relationship: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1).
To consider oneself a son/daughter and a servant of God seems like a strange pairing. You don’t expect someone to have the same sort of intimacy with their son the same way they would with a cook. You don’t expect the same immediate obedience from a child as you do someone on the payroll. And yet, in relation to God – each one of us is both child and servant. It may be that we can look to the story of Robin Hood for some inspiration…