17 Jun 2012
“With many such parables [Jesus] spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.” (Mark 4:33) In the name …
This weekend, Father’s Day weekend, Sharon and Amanda are at an AAU basketball tournament in Saratoga Springs, New York. I spent last Sunday afternoon watching two AAU basketball games down at Westfield State University. I had on a pair of Boston Symphony socks and a Boston Symphony tee-shirt. My little statement I guess. I looked good, but none of the other basketball-dads dressed like that. My daughters love their sports, but they definitely do not get that from me. Parenting is a mystery. It’s like Jesus preaching His parables and never sure how much is being understood. How your child or your children grow-up is filled with uncertainty. My father worked on the engine of an aircraft carrier in the Navy, came home and became a machinist, eventually owning his own machine shop. After I finished my first year in the Seminary, I went up to serve as Bp. Gnat’s assistant. He gave me a couple of weeks off before returning to Scranton so my dad let me work at his shop part-time to make a couple of bucks. He gave me a broom, and that was probably the only piece of equipment I could have used safely. He worked on the engine of aircraft carrier. I can’t figure out how to re-thread the string on the weed-wacker. Again, parenting is a mystery. We give what we can, but how it’s all received and understood is beyond the parents’ control. And that’s O.K.
My daughters more often than not call me “Faj,’ which I have come to find-out comes from the Austin Powers movies and the character of Faza. In one of those movies, Dr. Evil clones himself and the clone is called Mini-Me. Fatherhood is not about creating Mini-Me’s. Fatherhood is about giving love, hope and direction, and then praying a whole, heck of a lot, so that sons and daughters have a fighting chance to be what they want to be. I imagine that the hardest thing for fathers is not that their child or children don’t turn out exactly like them, but that they can’t help their children turn out how they want. Reproduced on your song sheet is a black and white copy of a painting that Sharon I saw over at the Clark Museum in Williamstown. It is of Camille Pissarro’s daughter who was seriously ill her whole, short life. She was often sickly and couldn’t go and play the way the other children could. This beautiful, little girl was captured in painting by her father sitting quietly in the garden, lost in thought, holding a bouquet of flowers. Pissarro must have ached while looking at his little girl, wanting to help. That not being able to do something has to be the greatest anguish of any father. Fatherhood is hoping that our examples are helpful, and it’s about the realization that those examples can be played-out in a thousand different and surprising ways, and that a father’s hope is not for a Mini-Me, but that they were able to help their child or children to become all that they hoped to be.
That’s sort of the message in today’s readings. The prophet Ezekiel comes right out and says: I bring low the high and I lift up the low. When it comes to life, much more is unexpected than expected. We seldom know how things are going to turn out. And the whole message behind Jesus’ parable of the seeds growing by themselves is that once the farmer puts them in the ground, at least to the ancient mind, they had no idea how that little kernel could turn into an abundant source of food. Jesus is basically saying, “Sometimes it’s in the hands of God.” We can do what we can, but how life eventually turns out is often a mystery. Fathers know this. Fatherhood isn’t about guarantees; it’s about trying.
I’d like to share a story with you. Herb Sanderson passed away last week and his funeral is in a couple of days. That’s going to make for a rough Father’s Day for that family. But since all of us knew and liked Herb, I want to tell you just one of the many stories that I’ve heard about our friend. Herb retired earlier than Marge. When this first happened, Herb, who didn’t know his way around the kitchen too well, decided that he would help by getting dinner ready. One evening Marge comes home and Herb is sputtering about the stupid microwave that doesn’t work. He would turn it on and it would turn off. He’d turn it on again, and it would again turn off. After a number of attempts, Herb gave up. When Marge looked inside the microwave, there were two potatoes sitting in there – wrapped in aluminum foil! It’s a good thing Herb didn’t blow the microwave up. But he tried. Not blowing up the kitchen. He tried to help with dinner. And trying is a big part of what fatherhood is all about. Just like Ezekiel and Jesus were saying, life holds a lot of surprises for us. There are not guarantees. One of the advantages fathers have when trying to raise their child or children is wisdom; they have lived long enough to learn these lessons of life. They know that few worthwhile things are certain, and that this is why it is necessary to try and to keep trying. Fatherhood is so much about the trying.
This is supposed to be a true-life story shared by a reader of Readers’ Digest. The contributor was sitting across the aisle from a woman and her young son. As they neared their destination she heard the mother remind the boy, “Now remember – run to Daddy first, then to the dog.” Ain’t that the truth. Father’s Day came along because Mother’s Day was already long on the books. Somebody finally felt sympathy for us. This is why I always like to give Father’s Day a special boost. I was down in Westfield covering for Fr. Joe back on May 6th. During the announcements I mentioned that the next Sunday’s celebration of Mother’s Day was good practice to get ready for Father’s Day. I don’t know if those people thought I was serious, mean or just kidding, but fatherhood is a blessing, and today we pray for all of the fathers of our parish and community, both those with us and those above us, and we ask that God bless them for all that they try to do, for God the Father has placed His children partly in their care. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo