Every good gift is from above, coming from you, the Father of lights. This thankful acknowledgement from the letter of St. James is offered at the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy. Yet, when we suffer, we might feel that, in addition to his blessings, anguish too is brought about by God. This can be a stumbling block to faith, should we fail to understand the true nature of God’s gifts, thinking God to be at times malicious or cruel. The cry ‘Why me, God?’ is a heart rending sound from anyone experiencing disease, darkness or despair.
Jesus offers a parable pertinent to this vexing problem. No earthly father, he tells us, would deny his son the gift of needed food, offering instead a serpent or a scorpion. If this is the conduct of sinful men, how much more would our heavenly Father offer good gifts to us, his children.
Much of this brief comparison depends, of course, on our image of a father. In many cases, fathers are not so thoughtful, generous or kind. There are cruel fathers, absent fathers, distracted fathers, even abusive fathers. When this is the situation, it could well color not only a child’s upbringing, but his or her perception of God the Father as well.
Here it is important to emphasize that God as our Father is not simply like an earthly father on a higher, heavenly level. It is merely our weak and inadequate attempt to describe the indescribable and unfathomable love of God. The point of the parable is not to liken God to earthly fathers, but to contrast his love with ours. How much more! St. Paul puts it this way
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (Eph. 3:14-15).
Most important of all, as Jesus emphasizes, not only would the all-good Heavenly Father give his children their ‘daily bread,’ he would never offer them serpents or scorpions. It is up to us as his children to re-examine our understanding of this world’s trials so that suffering will not make us bitter, but better.
The parable of the father’s good gifts is also reported in the Gospel of Matthew. Yet among the good offered, only Luke includes the Holy Spirit. This is the inexpressibly highest gift imaginable, the gateway to all other good gifts, bestowed upon us at baptism and constantly with us to sanctify us and bring us closer to Christ. The Holy Spirit is our counselor who guides us to all truth, and our comforter in all afflictions. In the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ sends us the greatest gift the Father can grant
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (Jn. 14:27).