By Fr. Glenn Jones
A very happy and joy-filled and blessed Father’s Day to all you dads out there! (Is it “Fathers”, “Father’s”, or “Fathers’”? Ah well … no matter.) What an honor you have to be entrusted with the care and teaching of God’s precious little ones—your children … those little images of God as we all are, but they with that innocence that we adults have most often lost but are called by Christ to emulate: “Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me…” (Matthew 18:4-5)
To emulate the innocence, yes, but not with child-like naiveté, for you dads (along with moms … and all of society, really) are entrusted with their safekeeping. Material safekeeping, yes, but even more so their spiritual well-being. In this vein, Jesus advises us: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16)
Yes, so very tragically for all—and as is more than apparent to all—this is where the Church, other Christian communities, children’s organizations, schools and many other entities entrusted with the safety of children have failed miserably in the past. In the Church it is worst of all by far, though—if not in magnitude of numbers, certainly in magnitude of betrayal as many who were called to most reflect Christ instead diametrically betrayed His image.
But now … hopefully … that malignancy is being excised. Yet, as with any surgery, there is bleeding and pain. Yes … the wolves were among the sheep and the flock much scattered, but now much effort is being expended to ensure that the wolves are being kept away from the flock … the shepherds’ past complacency and the naiveté that Jesus warned against much dispelled. There can be no altering of the past as much as we might want to do so; the course now is to look to and work for the good of the future. May God keep all safe from such predation ever again.
But … to return to a more joyful note … again, a very happy and blessed Fathers’ Day to all you fathers out there! What a privilege given you to be their fathers on earth … to protect, guide and shepherd them into the way of goodness, charity and peace. We priests are called “Father” to be spiritual guides—and more so, servants—to God’s faithful, and it is a wonderful, fulfilling thing. But … I confess … there remains a void in the heart in not having bodily progeny. I cannot help but envy you dads that. So cherish the gift that fatherhood is!…knowing that your love and care for your children is to reflect the love and care of God the Eternal Father for all.
(By the way … yes, yes, we know there is no gender in God (except Jesus, of course), but we Catholics continue to call God “Father” because Jesus called God “Father” … and taught us to do the same (Matthew 6:9, John 20:17, et. al.)
It’s always good to remember an important teaching from the book of Sirach 3 on Father’s (or Mother’s) Day:
1 Listen to me your father, O children; and act accordingly, that you may be kept in safety.
2 For the Lord honored the father above the children, and he confirmed the right of the mother over her sons.
3 Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
4 and whoever glorifies his mother is like one who lays up treasure.
5 Whoever honors his father will be gladdened by his own children, and when he prays he will be heard.
6 Whoever glorifies his father will have long life, and whoever obeys the Lord will refresh his mother;
7 he will serve his parents as his masters.
8 Honor your father by word and deed, that a blessing from him may come upon you.
9 For a father’s blessing strengthens the houses of the children…
10 Do not glorify yourself by dishonoring your father, for your father’s dishonor is no glory to you.
11 For a man’s glory comes from honoring his father, and it is a disgrace for children not to respect their mother.
12 O son, help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives;
13 even if he is lacking in understanding, show forbearance; in all your strength do not despise him.
14 For kindness to a father will not be forgotten, and against your sins it will be credited to you;
15 in the day of your affliction it will be remembered in your favor; as frost in fair weather, your sins will melt away.
So kids … treasure your parents while you have them, for time passes so very quickly, and as we who are a bit older know all too well, “…the silver cord is snapped…the golden bowl is broken…and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:6-7) We who have lost our fathers or mothers often reflect on what more we could have done to show our love to them. But we also know that those in Heaven forgive all things … hold no grudges; they only long for us to be with them once more for an eternal embrace.
And so … as mentioned last year as well: How is a man a good father? We need only adapt slightly St. Paul’s verses from 1 Corinthians 13:
“[A father] is patient, [a father] is kind; [a father] is not jealous or boastful; [a father] is not arrogant or rude. [A father] does not insist on [his] own way; [a father] is not irritable or resentful; [he] does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. [A father] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [A father’s] faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is [a father’s] love.”
Rev. Glenn Jones is the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and former pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Los Alamos.