Celebrate Father's Day: 'Kneel before the Father from Whom Every Family is Named'
The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; this is the foundation of the honor owed to parents.
Fathers are the foundation of families, they give them identity and meaning in both life and in death. On this weekend when we stop the frenetic pace of life to honor and remember fathers, we have an opportunity to reflect on what really matters most in our lives. They are a gift to be received and we should thank them, and the heavenly Father whom they reveal.
The Prodigal Son returns
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."(Ephesians 3:14 - 19)
These profound words were written by the Apostle Paul to the early Christians in Ephesus. The Greek word for Father and family are connected. Paul is using them in a sort of play on words to make a profoundly important theological and existential point. Fathers are the foundation of families, they give them identity and meaning in both life and in death. The Catholic Catechism says, "The divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; this is the foundation of the honor owed to parents." (CCC#2214)
The Biblical understanding of naming someone was a far more significant action than many contemporary approaches communicate. To name was understood to confer identity and introduce an ongoing relationship between the parties. Naming still confers identity and relationship. Understanding the implications of that fact takes a lifetime, and beyond.
On this weekend when we when we stop the frenetic pace of life to honor and remember fathers, we have an opportunity to reflect on what really matters most in our lives. The ones who have "named" us, our fathers, have helped to give us our identity. They are a gift to be received and we should thank them. They are also a sign of the very Fatherhood of God.
I lost my dear father in 2001. In that same year, my beloved wife also lost her father, my father in law, with whom I also had a wonderful relationship. We refer to that year still, with a heartbreaking sadness, as the year of our two fathers. When father's day rolls around, we still grieve, even as we laugh and remember them both.
My father's favorite song was the Louis Armstrong classic "What a Wonderful World". Each father's day since he died, in a melancholy mix of mourning and memories, I listen to that song. As the years go by, its words and insights open up in their simplicity and wisdom. My father understood that the words spoke to the things that really matter - once everything that pretends to matter is stripped away. As his life unfolded in those later years, when his congestive heart failure seemed to take its greatest toll, he loved the song and the sentiment it expressed even more.
As the years have passed, my sense of loss has not dissipated. It has only changed. As I so often tell grieving family members at funerals, the pain of loss on the memory of our deceased loved ones is just another manifestation of the eternal nature of all love. This father's day I will spend much appreciated time with some of our grown children and our grandchildren. As I experience the joy of family and fatherhood I know I will wish my Dad were with us to enjoy these precious moments. When we are with our own grown children and grandchildren, my wife and I always tell the stories of our fathers with fondness and ever deepening gratitude.
My father grew in tenderness and compassion as he faced death. It is funny how difficulties and struggle, suffering and strife, seem to be the most effective means of refining us all. He finally died of the heart ailment which had claimed so much of his vigor. However, like every struggle my father faced, he did not give up. He was a fighter and he did not want to go. In fact, I was at his "death bed" a couple of times, or so we thought it was his death bed. He decided he had more jokes to tell and love to give.
It was that fighting spirit which I have particularly grown to admire as the years have passed by. Oh, as a younger man, he perhaps fought the wrong battles. We all do. But, that does not really matter any longer. Life smoothes it all out and time presses us into love. I see now that it only gave him time to smooth off the rough edges of a hard life and to simplify. So it is doing with me, his son.
How my father loved to hear from us as he grew older. Sadly, in retrospect, I regret just how little we really called. How I would love to have just one of those conversations today. I miss him. I have a good friend who is younger. He and his wonderful wife are in the early years of raising their children. Two years ago she lost her dear father. Now, his father is in the throes of the latter stages of a struggle with cancer. I tell him every time I see him, cherish these days. I pray for him regularly, and I remember.
I think back on those final years with my own ...
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