Fathers Day honors the man in the family bearing resemblance to God the Father, ”from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named”. (Eph 3.15) This places dads in good company. Why? Because they do many good things for the rest of us, three of which are presented us today in our bible readings.
Dads are the outdoorsmen of the family, while moms are the indoors keepers of the family—more or less. Dads are into lawncare, tree trimming, gutter-cleaners, building maintenance, garage and basement supervisors, snow removal—we get the idea. How do we come upon all these good ideas for dads get all these ideas? Perhaps from Job, of whom we hear today as he presents his own understanding of God as Father, engaged in more or less similar kinds of activities, like setting boundaries for the sea, deploying clouds as frills (decorations) around the seas edges, and darkness suggesting the depths beneath, keeping it land-locked so as to prevent it invading areas where it doesn’t belong. This is God the Father’s job-description in His version of being a maintenance man: keeping things running smoothly and in good order.
Like His human counterparts, God the Father wants His (human) family to be off to a good start. This is St. Paul’s take on God the Father today. He leaves His imprint on the human family He has gotten underway, sending us Someone in His own image and likeness: Jesus. Every father takes pride in the family He leads, seeing traces of his own image in the children swelling the family ranks. His name (and ours, if faithful Christians) is as good as gold in certifying the trustworthiness of family transactions: accounts, purchases, taxes. He is the designated family spokesperson, who are distinctive by the rules, customs and practices of the house (God has done this too with His ten commandments). The family reflects the father’s value system, and this becomes evident everywhere: in the neighborhood, the school and parish, in recreational venues and workplaces. Jesus recognized this in predicting: “By this shall all men know you are my followers, by your love for one another.” As St. Paul says, family members operate on a different level, their own unique traits and characteristics: whoever is in Christ is a new creation: old ways of identifying the family may have to pass away, and be replaced by new things that do it better. The father is the major influence in setting the family tone, just like God the Father and the Christian family.
And then there’s the fear factor insinuating itself into everyone’s life. And fathers are made to offset such fears. This is how Jesus His Son, His own image and likeness, saw it in proceeding in today’s gospel by going to sleep in the boat struggling to hold its own against a fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus’ trust in His Father’s oversight and loving care and presence was more than equal to the storm’s fury threatening His band of followers. And dads carry on that same protective concern against taunts, bullying, put-downs for the clothes children wear, or the kind of food eaten or the entertainment enjoyed. Dads also offset the dangers of a flat tire, or a broken scooter or malfunctioning skates, or a threatening pit bull: all potential threats needing someone to take charge and calm fears down. And that’s the father of the family. With God the Father’s care always close at hand, the father of the family has an image at hand to be the take-charge guy, assuring that all is well.
The sense of fatherhood provides the security of management and control, of identity, of protective care. It embodies a pathway for coming to know God as Father. And it identifies a major help in appreciating the man of the house as someone standing in for the comforting and protective assurance that help is always nearby, especially when we remember to pray: OUR FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN…
This reflection was written some years ago by our late Passionist brother, Fr. Sebastian MacDonald, C.P., who passed away on January 1, 2021.