Happy Father’s Day! What an exciting day and a great chance to share our joy for all those fathers in our families – and to remember our fathers who have gone before us.
Now, every family is different – and every father is unique. In addition to my dad being the guy who introduced me to baseball, soccer, stuff about outer space, an interest in camping and the outdoors – he was also the real force of discipline in our house. My mom was not to be trifled with, but nobody wanted to have dad come home to a bad report. But really more than the times he was upset with me, I remember the times he would have been upset – but somehow I corrected course on my own and he never heard. For example, in my grade school everybody was supposed to learn cursive handwriting in third grade, but I learned at least how to read it in second grade. I was walking back from the principal’s office to my class and he had given me a note in cursive….As I began to decipher the note it read something like, “Dear Ms. Vest, if I have to see Tim again in office, I will be calling his father. Mr. McKenna.” I had just learned to read cursive, but I didn’t care for it dawned on me how much trouble I was going to be in if I didn’t pull it together….so I did! As time went on, my father’s most effective tool was just speaking to you in that disappointed way. Even a simple look could pierce your conscience. Nobody wanted to let either of our parents down.
One of the things essential to parenthood is consistency. As we grew up and learned how we were expected to act, my parents didn’t need to do as much because they were inside of us. My dad’s voice was in my heart as a guide. Traditionally, when it comes to the consistency of our mothers we are so close to them physically – being inside of them for 9 months and then literally on their hip or at their side during those early years – there is a consistency of physical presence. But fathers on the other hand, give us a consistency of our boundaries. What we can say…or where we can go…How we can act. They teach us what we should be afraid of – if anything. We are less physically linked to dad in how we are brought up. But, have I grown into the kind of man that my father is or was? That is not a trivial question. It takes an act of belief to find the answer.
In a similar way, God the Father is not visibly connected to us. We must make an act of faith when we profess to be His children or consider that the Kingdom in today’s Gospel is meant to be shared with us. But God tells us that this is how He operates. God is all powerful and He could have chosen to make us as powerful as He wanted from our very beginning, and He could have used examples of the biggest most intimidating creatures as models (like an entire tree!!) for us. But in our first reading, God tells us that it is from the topmost branches that He will tear off a little shoot (we’re not talking about a big tree limb – just a little tip top shoot). It is from this branch He will start His new majestic cedar – meaning His people. Jesus states that it is from the smallest of seeds that His kingdom will take its beginning. Our identification with God is not at first meant to primarily be one of His power. (His power only comes after we learn to be good in all circumstances). And so we learn to become the good soil in which the Kingdom of God can grow from the smallest beginning. But staying humble and learning to listen to His voice happens through discipline. The Letter to the Hebrews explains, “‘For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.’ God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”
Jesus is the Firstborn son and receives this discipline. The Letter to the Hebrews states that “although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” Why? It is not as if Jesus was ever disobedient, but that Jesus went through even the Cross to show us that our suffering can ultimately bring us closer to the Father. His Kingdom is worth our obedience and even our suffering. Jesus explains to us in John’s Gospel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise.” It is because Jesus conforms His actions to what He sees Our Father doing, He receives the power of the Father. He goes on, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” and “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.”
The next time you suffer – step back. See how Christ is present in your life. Is He perhaps calling you to imitate Him as He gives Himself without complaint? Can you receive criticism without resentment? Can you handle being gossiped about without returning fire? Being forgotten about might seem worse than either one, as many fathers today might be forgotten by family in one way or another. But do we remember that we are remembered? If so, we can begin to see the trials of our lives as events that can discipline us to be like God. The word discipline is close to the word disciple for a reason. Those who live according to the spirit of God and strive to see all things in His design are His disciples. This is an integral part in walking by faith and not by sight, as we draw closer to the judgement seat of Christ – God-willing as His brothers and sisters. Thank you to all Fathers who have guided us to the consistency of seeing good behavior as good behavior and evil behavior as evil and have yet reminded us that true judgment is in the hand of the Son.