By FR. EARL MEYER

St. Joseph Catholic Church

Father's Day is a two-fold celebration for people of faith. This weekend, we honor our earthly father and our heavenly Father.

The concept of father is found often and in varied contexts in Scripture. The word "father" is found about 1,500 times in the Bible, almost 300 of those in the gospels.

In the genealogies, "father" refers to parenting a family. In his parables, Christ used the image of a father to teach us about the kingdom of God.

The most significant meaning of the word "Father" on the lips of Christ is his heavenly Father, with whom he shares divinity. And the most pertinent message for us is found in the Lord's Prayer, which presents God as the Father of us all, "Our Father who art in heaven."

Our relationship to God as a father is expressed well in this prayer, which is known far beyond Christianity. The Lord's Prayer is found in the gospels of Matthew (6:9-15) and Luke (11:1-4). Luke's wording is shorter, but the two versions are substantially the same. Matthew's version has been adopted for liturgical use.

We begin the prayer by proclaiming the primacy of God, which leads naturally to a reflection on our relationship to God. First, we acknowledge God and his kingdom, and then, in that context, we address our own concerns.

Calling God our Father acknowledges a mutual relationship. We place ourselves under the care of God, but we also designate ourselves as children of God and assume the responsibility to act as such.

After the opening salutation, "Our Father who art in heaven," the body of the prayer has seven petitions. The first three petitions concern the cause of God -- hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done. The following four petitions concern our hopes and needs -- give us our daily bread, forgive us our trespasses, lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.

This structure and the relationship it implies corresponds to the two tablets of the Decalogue, where the first three commandments pertain to God's honor and the final seven to our conduct. This outline also reflects the two great commandments of Christ: Love of God and love of neighbor.

The Our Father is, therefore, a prayer not only about love of God but also love of others. This is evident in the personal pronouns, which are unselfishly plural. The prayer never says I, me, or mine, but only we, us and ours.

Christianity is a community faith. It is not "Jesus and me," but "Jesus and us." Tertullian, a theologian of the early church, wrote, "One Christian is no Christian."

The Lord's Prayer is doubly significant for earthly fathers. They are comforted by the care of their heavenly Father, but also challenged to imitate the fatherhood of God as they provide for their families.

Happy Father's Day to our fathers and to Our Father who art in heaven.

Statements of Faith is a series sharing lessons from local church leaders and members. To submit a column for publication, contact the Hays Daily News at (785) 628-1081.