This Sunday’s Gospel raises a common objection to something we do as Catholics. Our Lord tells us to call no one “Father”, and yet we do this very often when referring to priests. Many of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters see this as evidence of our ignorance of the Gospels. Yet, is this a fair criticism?
Notice that our Lord also tells us to call no one on earth “teacher”, yet we do this without thinking much of it. Furthermore, each of us calls our biological father “Father”, so why don’t we have a problem with this? It is clear that there is more to what our Lord is saying…it is not as clear as it seems. Indeed, even St. Paul refers to himself as the “father” the faithful in Corinth: “I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus, I became your father through the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 4:14-15). Priests are fathers in the sense that they confer spiritual life on the faithful through the sacraments.
So what is our Lord warning us against when He tells us not to call anyone Father, Teacher or Master? It is a reminder that we have only one true Father, Teacher and Master, one from whom all other Fathers, Teachers, and Masters get their name. God the Father is the model for all fatherhood, and He is to be seen as our true source of life and truth.