Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

It is hard to talk about fathers and their roles in the family these days without sounding old fashioned [I mean] in a society where many of the icons and celebrities of society are single mothers, in a society where a woman could walk across the block to the fertility clinic and buy herself a child, in a society where fathers are charged and convicted for child abuse when all they are trying to do is teach their children the necessary lessons of life, one could as well ask, “Who needs fathers these days?” Today, Father's Day, it would not be out of place for us to remind ourselves that in spite of all the changes in society, the father remains a very essential figure in the ideal Christian family. This is not a global condemnation of single motherhood since we know that many woman are forced into single motherhood by circumstances beyond their control. But I would like to remind ourselves today that the ideal Christian family remains that of father, mother and child[1].

So, who needs fathers these days? Children do. We should have a universal declaration of children’s rights saying that every child has a right to have a mother and a father. This is what people often forget when they discuss divorce. They tend to look only at the interests of the man and the woman. But I think that the party that is most hurt by a divorce is often not the man or the woman but the kids. Kids need fathers just as they need mothers. They need their fathers as role models as much as they need their mothers. A father’s love is different than a mother’s love, and the child needs both in the same way that our bodies need both proteins and carbohydrates in order to achieve a balanced growth.

The crisis of fatherhood in the family contributes to the crisis of faith in our society today. Even though God is pure spirit and therefore cannot be male or female, the Bible usually presents God to us in the image of father. Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer to call God Our Father.

For this reason this Sunday is also a good day to reflect on our Father in heaven. It is terribly easy to have a imprecise idea of God as our Father. There is a brilliant passage from Leo Tolstoy that could be a wonderful reminder to all of us[2]. As probably you know Tolstoy had tremendous temptation against his faith. He was given to chronic depression as we would call it today. He tried to cling desperately to his faith, so he urged others: «If the thought comes to you that everything that you have thought about God is mistaken and that there is no God, do not be dismayed. It happens to many people. But do not think that the source of your unbelief is that there is no God. If you no longer believe in the God in whom you believed before, this comes from the fact that there was something wrong with your belief, and you must strive to grasp better that which you call God. When a savage ceases to believe in his wooden God, this does not mean that there is no God, but only that the true God is not [made] of wood»[3].

It is so easy for us to think of God as completely impersonal, a vague abstract being, indeed in some ways a tyrant, a dictator, who instantly punishes us here and reserves horrible punishments for us hereafter for any offense. We forget all about his gentle mercy and forgiveness, his personal love for each of us. We forget that he sent his only Son to die after suffering bitterly. Why? Out of love for us. The Son did not do it for God the Father. He did it for us. But he was the gift of God the Father.

Let us pray for all fathers today that they may be more faithful to their duties in the family. Let us pray God to give them the moral strength and the economic resources they need to become good role models that their children can always look up to. And for all kids who lost their fathers through divorce or death, let us pray that the heavenly Father of us all may show Himself to be their father in such a tangible way so as to fill the vacuum left by the absence of a visible father ■

[1] Sunday 20th June, 2010, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Zechariah 12:10-11; 13:1. My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God—Ps 62(63):2-6, 8-9. Galatians 3:26-29. Luke 9:18-24
[2] Leo Tolstoy (1828 –1910), was a Russian writer widely regarded as among the greatest of novelists. His masterpieces War and Peace and Anna Karenina represent in their scope, breadth and vivid depiction of 19th-century Russian life and attitudes, the peak of realist fiction.
[3] In That the World May Believe, by Hans Kung (Sheed and Ward, New York) 1963. Page 143.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris