More than a Father
“Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away.” (2 Corinthians 5:9)
Jesus Christ had only one will: the will of his Heavenly Father. Jesus came to show us the loving and merciful face of the Father. It is an image that we contemplate on this Father’s Day. The Father loved us so much that he gave us his only Son, and his only Son loved his Father so much that he accomplished His will perfectly. Today the readings speak to us of majestic and sturdy trees where we can find shelter and refuge. What a great image to illustrate fatherhood. A father is supposed to be strong like the large trees that rise up from the small mustard seed. A father brings us security and provides shelter. One needs only to think of the great example of Saint Joseph whom God the Father chose to raise and protect his only Son. Joseph took on the great responsibility of fatherhood and protected Jesus and Mary which is why we ask for his intercession on this special day.
As a priest, I will never get to experience the joys of biological fatherhood, but I experience the joys of spiritual father on a daily basis. Here are two examples of how I have experienced fatherhood both as a spiritual father and as a son:
Very early on in my priesthood, I “got” what spiritual fatherhood really was. One of my students told me to pray for his grandmother who was very sick back in his home country. She was so sick that his father had travelled to be by her side. Now this student of mine was a tough kid with a big heart. He was always smiling, always the life of any party (still is), but underneath I could tell he was worried about his grandmother. One afternoon, I was sitting in the priests’ residence across the street from the school when the rarely used doorbell rang. It was my student and he had just found out that his grandmother had passed away. He didn’t say a word. I just knew by the look on his face. This big kid started sobbing in my arms. Right there, I “got” what it meant to be a spiritual father thanks to that young man. His father was at his grandmother’s side, but he still needed refuge and shelter. He needed the embrace of a father to reassure him that things were going to be ok. So many times, we look up to the heavens, as Jesus did during the agony in the garden, seeking out our Father’s help in times of trial. All we want is that sense of feeling safe and being loved that a father provides.
Last Tuesday, I said farewell to the good and holy priest that baptized me. He was always so proud of the fact that he had baptized a future priest. Whenever we were together he would proudly tell whoever was around that he had baptized me. He was a priest for 60 years when he was called home by our Father. I have a great picture from my ordination day with him and my father. One man gave me the gift of life. The other man gave me the gift of eternal life through baptism. So when I approached his casket last Tuesday before his funeral Mass, I leaned over and kissed the sacred hands that welcomed me into the Church and claimed me for Christ my savior. This holy priest and my own father remind me that fathers and priests are called to be more than fathers to their children. We’re called to be counselors, consolers, mentors, coaches, cheerleaders, patient listeners, healers, and oh so much more. We’re called to be as sturdy and strong as the most majestic tree and to be a source of shelter and strength for our children.
This past week I came across this poem that really sums up all that is needed to be a father:
God took the strength of a mountain, The majesty of a tree,
The warmth of a summer sun, The calm of a quiet sea,
The generous soul of nature, The comforting arm of night,
The wisdom of the ages, The power of the eagle's flight,
The joy of a morning in spring, The faith of a mustard seed,
The patience of eternity, The depth of a family need,
Then God combined these qualities, When there was nothing more to add,
He knew His masterpiece was complete,
And so, He called it ... Dad
St. Joseph, patron of all fathers, pray for us.
Happy Fathers Day.