Why do you call your priest Father?

In the Philippines, Pampanga in particular, we call our father ‘Tatang‘ and our uncle, ‘Bapa‘. Sometimes, kapampangans call their uncles as Tatang too. In the barrio where I grew up, we call our uncles as ‘mamâ‘ like Mamang Dado. There is an impit sound on the last syllable that is stressed and have a stop.

Sometimes, I wonder, even strangers, we call them ‘tatay’ or ‘tatang’ when we know the man is an elderly to show a sign of respect. Old ladies are addressed as ‘inang’. ‘nanang’ or ‘nanay’. Not Germany- it is offensive to call anyone ‘mama’ or ‘mutter’ except your biological mother.

In today’s gospel Jesus told his disciples and the crowd not to call anyone ‘Father’. No condition, even biological, spiritual, stranger, or an elder but God. It’s stange. Why?

Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven”

Matthew 23:9

We have to understand what the words of Jesus in its context. If you read the text of Matthew 23:1-12, Jesus also forbids us not to call anyone a ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master, because there is only one master – the Christ.

With the wrong understanding of the text, some Christians attack us Catholic of not following the teachings of Christ when we call our priest Father and worse – we call the pope as ‘Holy Father’? This could probably the reason why they do not call their church leader father but Pastor. Is it not the same prohibition when you call someone a pastor and yet they do not live the life of a ‘good’ Pastor?

Come to think of Abraham and Isaac who are called the Father (Acts 7:2) and (Romans 9:10). Joseph tells his brothers of a special fatherly relationship God had given him with the king of Egypt ((Gen. 45:8). Elisha cries, “My father, my father!” to Elijah as the latter is carried up to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings. 2:12). Later, Elisha himself is called a father by the king of Israel (2 Kings. 6:21).

“I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel

1 Corinthians. 4:14–15

Jesus meant not the literal addressing no one as father. He stressed his teaching about hipocrisy and humility. He used hyperbole (exaggeration) to show the scribes and Pharisees’ how proud they were for not looking humbly to God as the source of all authority and fatherhood and teaching, (being rabbis and masters) but instead they set themselves up as the ultimate authorities, father figures, and teachers.

“She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark”

1 Peter 5:13

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