How you can get to know God better


With the approach of Father’s Day, memories of my dad, who died more than 16 years ago, are bittersweet. The longer he’s been gone, the more I appreciate his role as the head of a large family. As a blue-collar worker and the father of seven children, he worked two jobs during the years when I was growing up.

Early in the morning, while everyone but my mother was still asleep, he headed to work, often on foot. By 4 p.m. he was home for a short respite and then out the door by 6 p.m. to spend four hours at his second job.

Since he often worked weekends, I didn’t get to know my father very well. Even in retrospect, I know more about him from what others have said or from what I’ve gleaned from stories about his life than what I experienced firsthand.

In some ways my father was a stranger who provided all the necessities that I took for granted. I rarely said thank you because, sadly, I never gave it much thought.

As an adult with children of my own, I am deeply appreciative of the sacrifices he made on behalf of our family. Although I can’t thank him in person, I pray to and for him.

I can’t change the past, but I can let my father know that I love him and appreciate all that he did when he was alive. I take comfort from my belief in the Communion of Saints — not as a panacea but as a sign of hope, knowing that death doesn’t separate us from those we love.

It’s been said that we often project the image we hold of our parents onto God, which is why children who have been abused or abandoned by their father have difficulty relating to God as Father. I’m not sure how my relationship with my father affected my relationship with God the Father when I was a child, but just as my appreciation for my natural father has matured with age, so has my appreciation for God as Father changed over the years.

Like with any relationship, we grow into our relationship with God by spending time with him. That means spending time with God in prayer. I admit that images of Jesus come to mind more readily when praying because of his human nature. Yet, it was Jesus who taught us to address God as Father. It was Jesus who rose early in the morning to spend time in prayer with the Father and it was Jesus who gave us the Parable of the Prodigal Son, which is also a parable about the love of the Father.

Most of us can relate to the Prodigal Son because we have all left the home of our Father at one time or another. We may not have left the Church, but every time we choose our will over the will of the God, we leave the Father’s house.

When we take the gifts of faith, hope and love that God gave us when we were baptized without saying thank you, we are the Prodigal Son. When we misuse, squander or use the gifts God gave us only when it suits our purpose, we are prodigal sons and daughters who leave home in search of a life more to our liking.

As we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, we might pause and ask: Do I believe my Father loves me even though I stray? When I pray the Our Father, do I stop and think about who I am addressing or what I am saying?

Unless I place myself in the presence of the Father, I will never really get to know him or feel his welcoming embrace.

Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite martyr who died in a Nazi death camp, said that to know about God from what others say or have written is to admire God, but to know God is to fall on our knees in adoration before him.

In Rembrandt’s painting of the Return of the Prodigal Son, the son is kneeling before the father, unshod. His penitential posture reflects a son who has learned life’s lessons the hard way. Having seen the error of his ways, he returned home more humble and wiser than when he left.

In the painting, the father stands before the son, drawing him close as if to reassure him that home is not a place but a way of being with those we love. And no one loves us as much as the Father who gave us his Son.

Scroll to Top