June 21, 2020 - Pastor Message07/09/2020
“Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The above quote from Jesus neatly summarizes the challenge he lays out to his disciples in the Sermon on the Mount as he redefines the law of God, calling us to more than mere legal observance but to go beyond the demands of the law to the new law of perfect love, the law Jesus himself taught with his life and sealed for all time with his death and resurrection. Jesus’ challenge to “be perfect”, as our Father in heaven is perfect, poses a nearly impossible task for all of us, as flawed and sinful as we are, but on this Father’s Day weekend, it sounds a special call to fathers.
The vocation of Christian fatherhood has not gotten any easier over the years. Like all fathers today, Christian fathers face the practical struggles of raising their children in a fast-paced and materialistic world, where the rat race puts constant pressure on parents to keep their children involved in as many activities as possible and to work as much as they can to secure the material benefits they believe they need to keep up with other families and children. Christian fathers also face the added pressure of an increasingly secular society that not only devalues the religious faith that Christian fathers try to pass on to their children but actively opposes it. Add to these challenges the increase in divorce and single-parent or mixed-family homes, employment and financial insecurity brought on by the COVID19 crisis, and cultural trends questioning the very meaning and even the need for fatherhood, and Christian fathers today have their work cut out for them, to say the least.
Yet Jesus’ call to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect still sounds with special resonance to Christian fathers through all the challenges they face. This is because our heavenly Father is the root of the vocation to Christian fatherhood in a unique way: God, the Father, is the source and model for Christian fatherhood. Cooperating with the Father, fathers create their children in their own image. With the Father, fathers sustain their children and provide for their wellbeing. With the Father, fathers guide and teach their children, and, in time, set them on their own path to make their own choices in life.
Of course, Christian mothers do all of this too, but Jesus tells his disciples to call God “Abba”, an affectionate term for “Father”, placing on fathers the unique burden of modeling the Father to their children. Left to themselves, fathers would find this impossible to do even marginally, much less perfectly. Yet, Christian fathers are not left to themselves in this mission. They have received the gift of the Spirit that enables us to call God “Abba, Father”, (Galatians 4:6). Their union with God in the Spirit empowers fathers to overcome their human faults and failings and to become the living image of the Father they are called to be for their children.
This Spirit flows through prayer and the sacraments, and so it is absolutely crucial for Christian fathers to have a strong spiritual life. If fathers want to show their children the Father’s love, they need to experience that love themselves in the Eucharist. If they want to show their children the Father’s mercy, they need to receive that mercy themselves in sacramental confession. If they want to teach their children the Father’s wisdom, they need to learn that wisdom themselves in the Scriptures. In these ways and more, God’s Spirit draws fathers closer to the Father, and the closer they draw to the Father, the more perfectly they will reveal him to their children. And so, as my gift to all of the fathers of our parish this weekend, I offer an invitation and an exhortation, for the sake of your children, to renew and strengthen your spiritual life. Please let me know if there is ever any way I can help with this vital task, and, on behalf of the parish, may you all have a happy and blessed Father’s Day.
Fr. Marc Stockton