He tried to concentrate on the passage he was reading but he couldn’t. Why didn’t Mrs. Siri’s grand-daughter, Clara address him as, “Father”? Everyone else did, even those who weren’t of the Catholic faith. It really bothered him. She didn’t call him anything. Perhaps he should talk to her grandmother about it the next time she invited him to tea.
“I don’t think you should do that, Father,” Sister Francesca said when he mentioned it to her. “It would be best if you took the matter up with Clara herself.”
“I guess you’re right. I’m going for my walk now. Maybe I will stop in and have a word with her on my way back.”
Clara was sitting under a tree when she happened to look up and saw him. After closing her book, she rose quickly to feet and moved to the side of the tree so that he could see her. When he did, he changed direction, walking briskly across the field towards her. “Hi,” she said when he reached her.
“How is your grandmother?”
“She’s fine, thank you.”
“What’s that you’re reading?”
She showed him.
“Divine Interventions. Is it an interesting book?”
“Clara, why don’t you call me Father?”
“The Bible teaches that we’re not supposed to call anyone Father, except God.”
“At the Last Supper, Jesus gave His Church the gift of the ministerial priesthood. He gave His apostles the authority to act in His person with the Father’s blessing. It is by priests that people are baptized, confirmed and receive the precious body and blood of Christ, our Lord. When priests are called “father” it isn’t given the same status which is meant for Our Heavenly Father alone and it doesn’t diminish God’s absolute and universal fatherhood.”
“When Jesus said that we aren’t to call anyone father, He was warning us not to give anyone inappropriate honor. Of course, we have fathers and teachers in the normal human sense, but when it comes to spiritual matters, we must not see them or treat them in such a way that it makes them feel that they have greater authority or superiority over us because of titles that belong to God and Jesus. You mentioned that Jesus gave the Catholic Church the gift of the ministerial priesthood but the Bible teaches that we are all God’s priests.”
“How are we all priests?”
“We have an example of this type of priesthood in Phinehas whom God acknowledged as a priest. As it is written in Numbers 25:10-13, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’ Similarly, if we are children of God, we are all priests because we are zealous for God in worship and serving Him as well as through our atoning ministry of intercession which includes living a life forgiving the wrongs that were done to us as well as by example, leading others to Christ.”
“Priests are given the authority to forgive sins of those who come to confession.”
“Only God can forgive our sins.”
“The Catholic faith says that Jesus’ priesthood was also given to men so that they could continue his earthly work of forgiving sins. the priest is acting in the place of Christ. A priest’s authority to convey forgiveness does not come from himself. It comes from Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the priest stands in the place of Christ to declare the sinner forgiven.”
“Where in the Bible does it say that priests have the authority to forgive sins?”
He took out his Bible and found the scripture he was looking for. “Let me read John 20:21-23 to you. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
“That passage doesn’t say anything about Jesus giving His priesthood to men. He didn’t say, ‘I make you priests’ or I give you the power to forgive sins. That power belongs to Him alone. Even the religious leaders accused Him of blasphemy when He forgave the paralytic. They saw Jesus as a mere Man taking upon Himself an authority only God should have. They didn’t realize that Jesus was God in the flesh.”
“How do you explain what Jesus meant in verse 23 where He talks about forgiving and retaining sins? It seems to me that He is giving the apostles the authority to forgive sins.”
“He’s giving them the authority to share the Gospel which tells people how their sins can be forgiven. Jesus said that we are all brethren. In other words, people shouldn’t be exalted above others because of their titles or positions in the church. The pastor isn’t more important than the usher nor is the elder more important than the greeter. We are all equally important in God’s eyes.”
“So, if you can’t address me as Father, how else can you do so?”
“I recently read online that the title of a priest who is placed in charge of a parish is properly addressed as pastor.”
He considered it for a moment. Being called “Pastor” was better than nothing. “All right. You may call me that.”
“Thanks, Pastor Kowalski.”
“I had better be going now. Say hello to your grandmother for me.”
“Goodbye, Pastor Kowalski.”
She watched him as he walked away.