Pastoral Message – June 20, 2021
Today I am doubly blessed: last year I was ordained to be a spiritual father; twenty-seven years before that I became a father to my son, John.
Most fathers would agree that there is no sacrifice too great for their children. Yet, I know that the way that I feel about my son is only a small and imperfect representation of the infinite and perfect love that God our Father feels for each of us. There is no comparison between our human ability to love and the love that God feels for us. I was only blessed to have one child, but I imagine that a man who has ten children takes the same level of interest in each of the ten as I do in my one. God takes that interest to a level that we cannot even imagine. It’s not that God loves humans in general, He is totally committed to each one and knows each of us specifically. As Paul writes, God sent His Son to die for all (billions of humans – past present and future), so that all might have new life in Him.
Like any good father, God is in the boat with His apostles to calm their fears. But, as the perfect Father, He can also calm the very cause of those fears. He saves them from the storm because He wants them (and us) to know that, despite the many challenges of this life, He is always there even when we think that He is asleep or distracted or simply doesn’t care. Our lack of faith doesn’t change His perfect love.
The day my son was born everything about him was precious and wonderful—each finger and toe seemed like a separate miracle. God loves us in that kind of detail. The disciples didn’t need to be “terrified” because God really did care for them, even down to the most minute detail. But we don’t have to be in His special group of friends to get His attention. He feels exactly the same way about each of us. We don’t earn or deserve His love. It’s a free gift. We simply must trust in that love and share it with others.
Sometimes when we face personal challenges in life or global challenges like COVID, we might feel that God is asleep in the boat and has forgotten us. That’s when we need our faith to bring us back to the simple fact that God knows and loves us better than our parents, husbands, wives, families, or friends. In fact, He knows and loves us more than we know and love ourselves. The God who calms the sea also cares for each of us.
As fathers who try to follow the example of our Heavenly Father, we must also be committed to our two most important responsibilities: faith and action. A dad must have faith in his own abilities as well as in his wife and in his children. He has to build a relationship of trust which helps his family to have faith in him. But he must also always be willing to act to protect his family, to prevent a wrong, to fix a bad situation, to repair a broken relationship, to comfort those he loves, and most importantly, to be certain that his family has a relationship with God.
When my son was very young, he stood at the side of the pool as Rosemary and I urged him to jump into my waiting arms. His faith in me had to overcome his fear of the water. Eventually, like most young children, he eventually took that leap of faith because he trusted in our relationship. Our children will only have faith in God if we teach them that God is always there with open arms and help them to develop a relationship with God. Children who have close relationships with their fathers and are nurtured in their faith by their fathers are more likely to remain committed to their faith. Children who practice religion with their fathers are twice as likely to practice their religion later in life as adults.
Of course, the skeptics among you may be thinking, “why do we have to have an image of God as a man?” or “How can we possibly see God in earthly fathers who are far from ideal?” As to the first question, our tradition of calling God “Father” is rooted in Jesus’ reference to God as His Father. Using this language to describe God was not meant as a literal image of God as a man, but to express the love and accessibility of God – reflecting the care and protection a good father would provide. As to the second, the analogy of God as our father is admittedly imperfect. Yet we cannot allow the failings of earthly fathers to cause us to doubt God’s perfect love for us or to feel abandoned by God. He is not sleeping or distant. He is totally and permanently committed to our wellbeing. For that reason, even if we are being tossed about by the waves, we must always have faith and never be afraid.
Have a blessed Father’s Day!