“On this day dedicated to the honour of our fathers, we ask you to bless all the fathers of our congregation and community.” (Father’s Day prayer from today’s Mass)
In the name …
At last Sunday’s Women in the Ministry Retreat, Rev. Cynthia Crosson-Harrington, the pastor of the Whately Congregational Church, asked the ones attending to write down the qualities they associated with their pastors.When it came time to share some of these thoughts, more than one Holy Namer just had to mention my singing voice.So you’re all familiar with the fact that my grasp of melody and key is rather distinctive and unique.Now try and imagine, on this Father’s Day, what Kristin and Amanda had to grow-up with when I would sing to them.The story of a father in a similar situation was shared with me recently.At bedtime, a devoted father would often pray with his small children and sometimes sang them to sleep.That is until he overheard the five-year-old girl tell her three-year-old sister “If you pretend you’re asleep, he stops.”
But with the passing of the years, however, fathers grow more and more adept at their roles within the family.Take this past Wednesday night for example.It was the last regular monthly meeting of the Masonic lodge to which I belong.These are usually longer meetings than usual because we hold elections and tidy-up business before, as we say, we go into darkness during our summer recess.I didn’t get home on Wednesday until about 11:15pm.I took my dog outside and did a couple of things in the office, then I turned off the lights, locked the door and went upstairs to watch a few minutes of television before going to bed.
I’m being nice and quiet as I walk down the hall and past a darkened Amanda’s bedroom, and I’m amazed that there are no lights on in Kristin’s room either.“Both must be asleep,” I say to myself.Then at about 11:30 the doorbell rings.I’m wondering who in the world is out there at this time of the night.I go downstairs, turn the lights back on, and there on the porch is my daughter Kristin, locked out of the house.I let her inside as she says to me, “Thanks dad,” the way only a teenager can.Then I finally go to bed, and by now Sharon is awake too, and she proceeds to tell me that Amanda is sleeping over at a friend’s house in Sunderland.I came home, thought both of my daughters were tucked away safely in their beds, and come to find out that neither one of them are even there.See what I mean about growing into the responsibilities of fatherhood.
But even if fathers aren’t perfect, we try.We try our best to teach our children well, to give them a worthwhile example, and to provide for them as best we can. And when we come up short, on those rarest of occasions, that’s when we can count on the help of God because God also counts our children as His children.Now I definitely do not think that God is a male.If, as St. Paul tells today, “there is not male and female” (Galatians 3:28) when Christ looks at us as His spiritual people, then why would we imagine that God is defined by physical gender?If our faith takes us beyond male and female, wouldn’t it be silly to imagine that God is still defined by gender?But even with that said, this is not to deny the importance of God being referred to as “Father.”We have to have some sort of reference point to talk about God and even to talk to God in our prayer lives, and one of those images that makes God a bit more understandable and definitely more approachable is the name “Father.”It started as a sacred tradition that has come to us from the pages of the Old Testament, and it is a tradition that has been even further elevated when Jesus refers to God as “Father” in order to convey the closeness of their relationship.And it doesn’t end there.We ourselves have been taught by Christ to think of God in the same way that Jesus did, that is as “Our Father.”It’s an image that conveys interest and concern, power and personal involvement, love and even sacrifice.
God may have other attributes that bring to mind king, creator, judge, the almighty, but it is the name “Father” that has become His own, and when we earthly fathers share that name with God, we have to realize that there is a great responsibility that comes with it.It cannot be taken lightly.It cannot be associated only with inception and not with the raising of a child.We don’t think of God the Father as winding up the clock of creation and then just letting it run its course. We think of God
the Father in a personal way, as a God that we can pray to and talk to, and as a God that will listen to us, and if we are patient enough and faithful enough, who will even talk back to us.In the same way, fatherhood is not about making babies; it’s about raising children and preparing them to set out on their own, prepared to make their way in life.
Back at our Women in the Ministry retreat last weekend, the women talked about motherhood and how they bond with their child even before the child is born, and those women also spoke about the pain of child birth.To which Fr. Sen. Soltysiak, sitting in the front row, commented that it can’t be any worse than when his gout acts up.He’s a brave man that Fr. Senior.But fathers will never know the experience of carrying a child or giving birth, but that bond is still there and is just as real.For those men who take their privilege and responsibility of fatherhood seriously, and who love their children by how they act toward them, for them we pray today.For those fathers who have been called to their heavenly reward, we pray also for them today.We thank our fathers for all of their gifts and sacrifices, and on this Father’s Day, we actually take the time to say so.And we ask that Jesus bless them what they do.For these things we pray in Jesus’ name.Amen.