Earlier this week, I was at Franciscan University in Steubenville at a retreat for priests, deacons, and seminarians. The theme of the retreat was 'Father" and reflecting his love on our spiritual and biological children. I felt the love of God and the power of the Holy Spirit there all week. On Thursday night a priest prayed over me to trust God more in my life. Afterward, he told me that I needed to let go. I thought, "No kidding, that's why I asked you to pray over me." I was disappointed that I didn't feel the presence of the Lord there like so many other men did. Then, Friday morning after mass I stayed in the chapel and began to reflect on today's Gospel. Why is Jesus asleep in the boat? I need for him to wake up right now before more boats sink during these turbulent times. I was like the apostles who said to Jesus: "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" Then, it hit me. Jesus is present, even with me personally. After all, I just received him in Holy Communion. I welled up and tears came as I felt the overwhelming love of Jesus for me. Now, I don't cry easily or often. But, on Friday, he touched me deeply. Jesus is with us. He will be here on the altar in a few minutes. No matter how much your boat is rocking, go to him. Trust him. He can calm the waters and give you peace and joy if you let him.
As fathers, we image God the Father in our fatherly roles as we create life, bring our children to the baptismal font to initiate them in God’s family, and witness the beginning of their married lives. As I treasure key events in my family’s journey, so our heavenly father also treasures and sanctifies these milestones. Today, as we celebrate the gift of fatherhood, I’ll try to encourage biological fathers and anyone else who must, by default, assume the father’s role in the family.
In our families today, sometimes we seem to be in very rocky waves, struggling while Jesus is asleep. Jesus response to his disciples in the boat is the same one that he would give to us: “Why are you afraid; have you no faith?”
If our faith were stronger, we wouldn’t be worried so much about all the evil that we see in the world. We would follow Jesus in peace and joy and would trust that things would work out in the end.
We, as fathers, trust and follow Jesus with five key actions: prayer, humility, leadership, protection, and love.
Prayer. Prayer connects us to Christ. We cannot trust and follow Christ if we don’t know him. So, this is the starting point in leading our family. Prayer gives us the wisdom and the power to lead our family to Christ. If we want to win the fight for the hearts of our children, the battle is won with prayer. Spend an hour each week before the Lord in the adoration chapel if you really want to get to know him. Tell him your concerns, and he will show you the way.
Humility. It’s OK not to have all of the answers. As fathers we think that we need to be problem solvers all of the time and that we cannot have problems ourselves. No earthly father is perfect, only our heavenly father is perfect. Our families know our weaknesses. God knows our weaknesses very well. Don’t expect perfection from yourself and don’t be afraid to apologize when you mess up. My oldest son, Tim, once said that I was learning to be a father by trial and error with him. And he was right on. At the time, I was a young father and was making my share of mistakes.
Leadership. The father is meant to be the spiritual leader of the family. It is our responsibility to bring our family to the faith. And we do this primarily by our example. If we aren’t willing to do this, our wife then has to step into this role. But, more often than not, the children will follow the father’s lead even if this takes them away from the church. And, if neither of you lead your children in faith, the evil one will be more than willing to fill the void.
Protection. Fathers have historically been responsible for physically protecting their children. And, most fathers are very good at this. However, protection also has a spiritual dimension. The father must protect his children from spiritual evils that will pull them away from Christ. These evils are all around us today. These are the waves in the water that are swamping our boat. They come through the internet, TV, phones, everywhere we turn. Teenagers and young adults in particular are constantly getting messages which are contrary to Jesus’ teachings. This, in my opinion, is the elephant in the room today for fathers. As fathers, it is just as important to protect our children spiritually as it is to protect them physically.
Love. Love God. Love your children. Children learn the love of Christ through the love of their father. Love them unconditionally. Love your wife. The most important gift that a father can give to his children is to love their mother. Receive the love of the Father for you and reflect this love on your family.
Remember: prayer, humility, leadership, protection, and love.God bless. Happy Father’s Day!