21 Jun 2009
“[Jesus] woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still!’” (Mark 4:39) (+)
Fr. Randy Calvo
Now Jesus did not have any children, but it sure sounds like He understood fatherhood. Today’s Gospel selection begins with the words: “On that day, as evening drew on …” According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has been working all day, and now at the end of the day He’s exhausted. He gets into the boat with the disciples. He’s so dog-tired that He falls asleep quickly and soundly. Many of these disciples in the boat with Him are fishermen who have made their livelihood on the Sea of Galilee. It’s not like they’ve never been on the water before. A fierce storm comes-up. The boat starts to take on water, but Jesus is still sound asleep. The disciples wake Him up complaining, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” A groggy and un-pleased Jesus gets-up from His short, little catnap and commands the sea: “Quiet! Be still!” Then Mark tells us that the disciples start talking among themselves about what had just happened, giving us the impression that in this small boat Jesus is not privy to their conversation, which I take to mean that Jesus took care of the problem and then went back to sleep.
Doesn’t that sound like fatherhood? Works hard all day, comes home exhausted, tries to take a quick nap, something comes up around the house, another supposed emergency, interrupts his few moments on the couch, he takes care of it, and then goes back to his nap. It’s extremely efficient and functional. Fatherhood may not be as dramatic as calming a storm on the sea, but fathers are there to step-in when needed. No matter how tired they may be, they’re there when they are needed. Sometimes fatherhood has to sound a lot like Jesus in the boat: “Quiet! Be still!” But sometimes being firm is exactly what’s needed.
Other times fatherhood calls for holding back, and again that’s played out on the Sea of Galilee. In that boat the disciples are being tested on two separate planes. For one they are fishermen. They should have been able to handle the difficulties of the storm themselves. Secondly and more importantly, they are disciples. Even if as seasoned fishermen they are worried, they are followers of the man who is asleep in the stern of the boat. They have come to believe that Jesus has been sent by God. Their faith should have told them that the boat could not have sunk because Jesus was in that boat. That’s why after the storm is calmed Jesus turns to all of them and asks, “Do you not yet have faith?” By not intervening immediately, the disciples are given a chance to learn and to grow. Sometimes fatherhood means stepping back. It means letting the son or daughter find their own way, letting them test their abilities and find their strengths and weaknesses, letting them even get bruised a bit.
I know with me if my father had not stepped in and let me have my falls on my bicycle my mother would have been running beside me on my bike well into college. Sometimes fatherhood is about the tough job of stepping back. One Junior High School teacher was asked by a mother at an Open House I attended if he could send notices home to parents to keep them abreast of homework and project assignments in his class. He said bluntly that responsibility belonged to the student not to the parent, and the way he put it was classic: “Do you want to hold his hand all the way through college?” There’s even a newly coined phrase “helicopter parent,” which refers to parents who are constantly at college campuses trying to run defense for their children. It’s like as soon as there’s a problem the parent helicopters in to try and take care of it. Sometimes fatherhood means stepping back, worrying a lot more, but still stepping back, so that the son or daughter can move down that bumpy road that lets them grow-up and mature.
Whether it be stepping in loud and clear when need be, or standing back quietly also when need be, fatherhood is always on because their children are always on. I caught the trailor for the new animated movie “Up” the other day. The dog is given a contraption that allows him to speak. He’s in the middle of a conversation with some guy, then he blurts out “Squirrel!” and then goes back to his conversation. All kinds of random stimuli interfere with and blur the dog’s attention. And scientists are discovering that it’s the same with babies, as a matter of fact babies are more conscious of their world than we are of ours. We have trained our minds to block out irrelevant stimuli whether it be the whirl of a ceiling fan or the sound of a passing car, but for babies everything matters. The brains of babies actually contain more brain cells than the adult brain. There are far more connections among those brain cells too. A baby’s mind is crowded with fleeting thoughts and stray sensations. Everything in the world around them comes in and is processed. And because everything matters, right from that moment when a father first holds his child, fatherhood is on.
This was explained to me in a recent e-mail that the mailer may notice has been changed ever so slightly. It’s called the Father Test. A man was out walking with his 4-year-old daughter one day. She picked up something off of the ground and started to put it in her mouth. The ever-diligent father took the item away from her and asked her not to do that. 'Why?' the daughter asked. 'Because it's been on the ground; you don't know where it's been, it's dirty, and probably has germs,' the father replied. At this point, the daughter looked up at him with total admiration and asked, 'Daddy, how do you know all this stuff? You are so smart.' Thinking quickly he responded: 'All dads know this stuff. It's on the Father Test. You have to know it, or they don't let you be a dad.' They walked along in silence for 2 or 3 minutes, but she was evidently pondering this new information. 'Oh.....I get it!' she beamed, 'So if you don't pass the Father Test you have to be the mommy.' And with that said, may all the fathers of our church and community be blessed on this their special day, and for all our fathers who have passed on to their eternal reward may they know of our thoughts and our love. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen. (+)