Archive for the ‘Fatherhood’ Category

Call No Man Father?

June 19, 2018

Was it unchristian for our country to celebrate Father’s Day last Sunday? That’s one implication of a common criticism raised against the Catholic Church. Sometimes Protestants chide us, “Jesus said, ‘Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in Heaven,’ so why do you Catholics call priests and popes ‘Father?’” Yet this charge could also be raised against St. Paul who writes in his Letter to the Romans of “our father Abraham” and “our father Issac.” What’s more, St. Paul is moved by the Holy Spirit in his First Letter to the Corinthians to assert himself as their spiritual father: “Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many fathers, for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

So what is Jesus saying in his teaching on titles (father, master, rabbi/teacher) in Matthew 23? Judging from the whole of the New Testament, our Lord’s concern is not with labels or hierarchy in themselves (for “he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.”) Jesus is warning us against the fallen, human attitudes that we can attach to positions and titles of authority and honor. Jesus says, “You have one teacher… you have but one Father in Heaven… you have but one master, the Messiah.” We must not allow anyone (be they a noted thinker, politician, celebrity, employer, or parent) to displace or compromise God’s primacy in our lives. Embracing a teaching or custom against our Faith is to worship an idol instead of God. And Jesus says “you are all brothers…. The greatest among you must be your servant.” So whenever we are called into a position of influence (be it as a parent, pastor, politician, or what have you) we must remain humble and glorify God while serving him and our neighbors.

The Venerable Servant of God Bishop Fulton Sheen once observed, “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” Our Faith has good answers to offer anyone who cares enough about the truth to simply look or listen. So do not fear religious conversations with your family, friends, or peers. You’ll both learn more along the way and you could very well help them into the fullness of Jesus’ Catholic Church.


The Giving Tree — Tuesday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

March 1, 2011

Do you remember The Giving Tree, that very green childrens book by Shel Silverstein? It’s a story about a boy and the tree that loved him. When he is a boy, the tree gives him her leaves to play with and her apples to eat. However, when the boy becomes a young man he comes asking for money, so that he can buy things and have fun. Since money doesn’t grow on trees, she gives him her apples for him to sell. Time passes, and he comes back, this time asking for a house. The tree lets him cut off her branches so that he may build one. Later, much later, the boy returns again, but he is now a much older and sadder man.”I want a boat that will take me far away from here,” he says. “Can you give me a boat?” The tree offers her trunk and he takes it. He fashions a boat, and sails far away. After a long time, the boy returns, now a very tried and very old man. The tree is now just an old stump. He has taken everything, but she still gives. The story closes with these words: “‘Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.’ And the boy did. And the tree was happy.”

Now if The Giving Tree has always been one of your favorite books, that’s ok. If it has a special place in your heart, don’t let me or anybody take that from you. But, as for me, this book has always bothered the heck out of me. Even when I was a kid, the story filled me with indignation. Do you know what I’m taking about?

It’s the boy! The selfish, ungrateful boy, who never gives anything back. He receives everything the tree has to give and he never says, “Thank you.” He takes everything she has to give, uses all of it up on himself, and he never says, “I’m sorry.” This book would have been so much better if he just said “thank you” at the end. Does this kid’s behavior in the story of The Giving Tree bother you like it bothers me? If so, then you and I should make sure that we’re not doing the same in our own lives.

So who would be the “giving tree” we take for granted in our lives? Our moms and dads come first to mind. They’ve given us life, food, shelter, clothing, and love our entire lives. What have we given back to them? They probably don’t need your material support right now, but they would appreciate signs of your love. (It’s probably no coincidence that Shel Silverstein dedicated The Giving Tree to his own mom.) But there is another “Giving Tree” we can take for granted, who is even greater and more generous than our parents. I speak of God, and of Jesus Christ, “from whom all good things come.” What should we do for our parents and for God? We should honor them with our words. We should obey them in our actions. We should be grateful for everything and show it.

For God, we do this by way of sacrifices. (This Eucharist is a thanksgiving sacrifice. The name itself means thanksgiving in Greek.) Yet our sacrifice is not merely what happens here at church, but the offering of our whole lives. Those who make no sacrifices for God in their daily lives bring nothing to His altar. What do we have to offer Him today? What will we have to offer him tomorrow?

Jesus Christ is The Giving Tree. At this sacrifice, let us say to Him, “I’m sorry, for misusing your gifts.” Let us say, “Thank you, for your generosity to us.” And let us say, “I love you,” because that will make Him happy.

Child of God Homily

February 9, 2011

Do you know who Bill Gates is? He started a computer software company called Microsoft and is one of the richest men in the world.  If Bill Gates were your dad do you think that he would be willing to buy you things you could never have otherwise? Imagine if President Obama were your uncle.  Do you think he would invite you to the White House sometime?  Do you think that you would have the opportunity to talk to him about your concerns and ideas for the world? Hold that in mind…

When I was younger, something about how we professed the Nicene Creed on Sundays struck me as strange: “For us men and for our salvation He came down from heaven. *Profound Bow* By the power of the Holy Spirit, He was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. *Straighten* He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered, died, and was buried.” I wondered, “Why do we bow for Jesus being born? Heck, even I was even born. Why don’t we bow for His suffering instead?” 

We tend to think of God becoming man as a perfectly normal thing for God to do, we take it for granted, but it is actually the most surprising thing that has ever happened in history. The divine Son became one of us so that He could be our brother, and so that His Father could be ours. “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.”

Our heavenly Father is unimaginably rich, and He wants to provide for you and bless you. Our Father is all-powerful, and He is always open to hearing your prayers. Our Father in heaven has a house far greater than the White House, and He is preparing a place for you to stay. Remember this: you are a child of God the Father, and that’s a big deal.

We’re in a Hurry — 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

July 18, 2010

The other day I was thinking about this homily when I heard the words of some modern poets on my radio. They said:

I’m in a hurry to get things done,
Oh, I rush and rush until life’s no fun.
All I really gotta do is live and die,
But, I’m in a hurry and don’t know why.

This goes to show that we still have a Martha problem today. The group Alabama said that they didn’t know why we get in a hurry, even though we’re not having fun, but I think I know the answer. The reason is that our loves and good desires are mixed with fears. If we would take that fear away, we would find peace.

Martha loved the Lord and wanted to serve Him well, but she had fears mixed in. She was the one who invited Him to the house and He probably had His apostles and other disciples with Him. She was busy serving them all, perhaps making the biggest meal she had ever made, and she was full of worries. “What if I’m a poor host and Jesus is disappointed with me? What if there’s not enough food for everyone to eat?”

We are often the same way. We fear that our lives are on the edge of disaster if our own plans and efforts should fail. We worry about bad things happening to ourselves and the people we love. We are anxiety about how Jesus feels about us.

Martha had a great desire to do good, but Martha’s fear tempted her to do harm. Her sister, Mary, was sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words. (The Greek word for disciple actually means “one who sits at the feet of.”) Martha tries to take Jesus’ disciple away from Him.

Similiar thing can happen in our live on account of fear mixed with love. A husband and father can obsess about his work, out of a love for his family and a desire to provide, but his family can be left feeling like they come second in his life. A wife and mother can be so concerned that her loved ones will be safe and happy that she tries to control everything, making her family less happy because of it. Martha’s problem and ours is not that we work–work is a part of life–but in how we go about it.

Jesus says to Martha, and to us, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing.” What is this one thing we need? We need the peace of Christ. What is the peace of Christ? It is several things.

It is the awareness that God is near and guiding us. In the first reading, three heavenly visitors approach outside of Abraham’s tent. Now, the Holy Spirit dwells within our tents, Jesus is at our side, and we have a Father above. We are never left on our own.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that whatever may happen to us or those we love, it is for our good. As St. Paul observes in the second reading, even his sufferings are a cause for rejoicing for they advance the salvation of the whole Church with Christ.

With the peace of Christ we recognize that misery is not just around the corner, nor is happiness out of reach. Happiness is at head, in the knowledge that Jesus loves us, likes us, cares about us, and cares for us. Living in the peace of Christ means there is no reason for us to be unhappy.

Let us continue to do works of love for God, ourselves, and others, but let us do them always in the peace of Christ.

Father’s Day Homily

June 19, 2010

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” (1 John 3:1) As St. Paul says in the second reading, “Through faith [and baptism] you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-27) God is our Father who lives and reigns in Heaven. What is the fatherhood of God the Father like? What can we say about His fatherhood. I offer these insights:

The Father’s love begets life.
We see this in His Son, who is eternally begotten from the Father. And begetting is not a merely an action which the Father had done and then walked away from. The Son is eternally begotten from the Father in love.  And, as the Prologue of John’s Gospel says, “All things came to be through [this Son], and …. what came to be through him was life…” The Father’s love begets life.

The Father labors in love.
God the Father labors to fashion and sustain creation; heaven and earth and every creature, seen and unseen. He makes them in love and preserves them in love. As the prophet in the book of Wisdom observes, “[Lord,] you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” (Wisdom 11:24-12:1)  The Father labors in love.

The Father guides His family.
The world became dark though sin, so the Father enlightened it. The people became lost without Him, so the Father guided them. The Father enlightens and guides His children by speaking His word to them. Jesus Christ is the Father’s word. The Father guides His family.

The Father is easily pleased by those who are His own, yet He calls them ever higher.
At Jesus’ baptism, the Father spoke from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” Yet, as today’s gospel recalls, the Father also called His beloved Son to take up the cross. Four days before His Passion, Jesus said, “I am troubled now. Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28) On the cross, Jesus was not just lifted up, but exalted. The Father is easily pleased by those who are His own, yet He calls them ever higher.

The Father is just like the Son.
Some people find it difficult to relate to the Father, but the Father is just like His Son. At the Last Supper, Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.” (John 14:8-10)  The Father is just like the Son.

The Father transcends human fatherhood, but He is the origin and standard of all fatherhood.
God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. The Father is neither man nor woman: He is God. Although the Father is the origin of all fatherhood, He transcends human fatherhood. No one is father as God is Father. Yet, we who are earthly fathers, who have natural or spiritual families and children of our own, must take our Father in Heaven as our standard and model. Each of the insights I have given for God the Father have application for our fatherhood.

Your fatherhood should beget life.
Now the begetting of life is not merely biological, if it were then priests would not be fathers. There are some biological fathers who beget life and leave. These men fall very far short being true fathers. True fathers give life and nurture that life forever, like God the Father who begets His Son eternally. If you are a mother or father, even if even if your children should die, even if you should die, you are a mother or father forever.

Your natural fatherhood should be fruitful. More than just biologically, but biologically, too. What would you think of a priest who was both capable and called to work to beget more spiritual children by sharing the gospel, but who refused to do so for self-centered reasons. What if he were to say, “I’m happy with the number of parishioners I have already.” Your fatherhood should beget life.

Your fatherhood should be a labor in love.
Always remember whom you are working for and work for love of them. Beware of an ambitious careerism, which is all about you. What would you think of a priest whose primary ambition was to become a cardinal, instead of those entrusted to him. 

At home or at the workplace, labor in love for your family. And take time to rest and enjoy them. Even God the Father rested after His labors to enjoy how “very good” it was.

Your fatherhood should guide your family.
You are called to be a leader, guide, and teacher for your family. Your wife will not begrudge your lead if you love her and lead her as Jesus loves and leads the Church. Remember, Jesus died for His family and bride.

As parents, you are the primary educators of your children. Sometimes we think of education as only what happens at school. But the most important lessons in life are not taught in the schools, but in the home. The home is the domestic Church and the school of love.

In your fatherhood, let your children know your pleasure in them and always call them ever higher, to all they can be.
Always show them your pleasure, that with them you are well-pleased. But like God, love them too much to let us remain as we are.  Grow them to their full potential.

In your fatherhood, take the Father in heaven as your standard and model.
If you’re ever unsure of how to image the Father, look at His son, for Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. The Father is just like the Son.

May God bless all our Fathers, living or dead, and may help we who are fathers to be better ones.

An Incomplete Lord’s Prayer — Thursday, 11th Week in Ordinary Time—Year II

June 18, 2010

Sometime in the past, I realized that I didn’t pray the Lord’s Prayer right.  It’s not that I was actually changing the words Jesus taught us to say, but I realized my focus was not fully what Jesus had in mind. My subjective, firsthand experience of praying the prayer went something like this: 

God, who art in heaven…
     [<Here I get distracted for several seconds>]
…give me this day my daily bread,
and forgive me my trespasses,
as I forgive those who trespass against me,
and lead me not into temptation,
but deliver me from evil.

Did you notice anything different?

First, Jesus taught us to pray to “Our Father” because we are not praying to anonymous force, but a person, a divine person who is imaged in a special way by natural and spiritual fathers on earth. Earthly fatherhood is a diminished image of Him. Biological fatherhood teaches us about our heavenly Father’s transcendence, while devoted fathers teach us about His love. (“The respective ‘perfections’ of [both] man and woman reflect something of the infinite perfection of God,” as the Catechism teaches, but “Our Father” is significant.)

Second, the prayer’s early petitions, “hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” are every bit as important as the later petitions ‘about us.’ God is justly entitled to glory, His kingdom and reign.  Remember that all these are essential and conducive to our own greatest happiness.

Third, the Lord’s Prayer is not meant to be prayed just for yourself or myself, but for all of our Father’s family, for the whole Church, for even the whole world. The Our Father is not only a petitionary prayer, but an intercessory prayer.

So when we prayer the Our Father, the perfect prayer which Jesus taught us, let us pray it in its completeness, with a presence of mind and fullness of heart.

34th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

November 23, 2009

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. Jesus Christ is our king, now and forever. Yet, the idea of monarchy doesn’t really resonate with us. And it’s not just because we don’t have an earthly king ruling our country. It’s that we’re not big fans of authority. We are wary of anyone having too much power. This is because power is often abused.

Those with any degree of power, be it over entire people or a single employee, can abuse that power. We can fall into thinking only of themselves and our own advantages and be blind and deaf to the legitimate concerns and genuine needs of others. Sometimes those with power hold on to it jealously and will stomp out any real or perceived threats to that power without regard to the truth. This is how the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate responds to Christ. When Pilate asks Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews,” he is not searching for the Jewish messiah, or even the truth.  He is probing for a political threat to himself.

The true purpose of power and authority is for serving the good of others. This goes for the Church and for all government, for our workplaces and our homes. The reason that our all-powerful God shares some of His power and authority with us, His creatures, is not so that we may be self-serving. It is so that we may serve others, give them life and bless them, and in this way resemble God Himself. God has given of Himself, given us life, and blessed all creation.

As Jesus said to His apostles, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.”

Jesus showed his perfect love for us by becoming a slave and dying for us on the cross. For this reason, we do not fear the idea of Him being the first among us, reigning as our king. The Church, His bride, welcomes its royal bridegroom. And as it is for the bride of Christ as a whole, so it is for every Christian soul in relationship with Christ.

Every bride yearns to be fought for, to be pursued and to be a priority to someone. Christ has made us His priority.  He came down from heaven in pursuit of us. He has fought for and died for us, and now in heaven He still fights for us.

Every bride also wants an adventure to share. She doesn’t want to be the adventure; she wants to be caught up in something greater than herself. When we are living for ourselves we are alone, without purpose, and empty. Each of us is meant to live a life about more than just ourselves.  A life in Christ. We each have a vocation, a calling from God, a unique part to play in an epic adventure, a significant part to play in His great story.

Every bride wants to have a beauty to unveil. And it’s not just an exterior beauty. It’s a deep desire to truly BE the beauty and to be delighted in by the bridegroom. Christ is the lover of our souls and all of us wish to have beautiful souls. Each person desires to be approved and uniquely enjoyed by Christ. For us males, this is a desire for his approval and regard.  To be one who He is unashamed to call us His brother, a member on his team; a man in His platoon

Why bring up how Christ our King is the perfect bridegroom for His bride, the Church? Gentlemen, take note. Imitate Christ for your brides with Christian chivalry, love your wives as Christ loves the Church, and you will be like our king for your queen. Fight battles on Christ’s side for your beautiful bride. Lay down your life for her each day. Be Christ the king’s shining knight for her—honor, serve, and defend your bride and lead her on an adventure. The power you have is for her and you family.

For any of us, with any power and authority comes responsibility. And the power each of us has gives us a great opportunity. For by serving Christ our King and by caring for those He has entrusted to our care, we win the only glory and happiness worth having, that of Christ our king—the glory and happiness with the power to last forever.

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

August 17, 2009

We humans are forgetful creatures. Look at the Hebrews, running short on food and patience in the first reading. It’s only one month since they’ve walked freely out of Egypt; after ten miraculous plagues, after the parting of a sea before them, after the total destruction of their enemies behind them. It’s just one month later and they’ve already forgotten God’s desire and creative ability to care for them. They’ve forgotten, and their hope is gone.

In the Gospel there’s more forgetfulness.  The people come to Jesus and they ask Him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?  What can you do?” Have they already forgotten about His recent miraculous sign, how just the other day he multiplied loaves and fish for them?  Recalling that miracle to mind would have strengthened their faith and hope.

We’re forgetful too. I, for example, often have a problem remembering how the responsorial psalm goes.  I hear it, I repeat it, and then it’s gone. We’re forgetful people. For instance, can you remember what I preached about the last Sunday I was here? I wouldn’t expect you to.

I spoke about how we should be hopeful because of Jesus Christ. I also strongly emphasized the importance of each of us to pray every day. This morning I want to teach you how we can be strengthened in faith and hope by recalling in prayer our most grace-filled memories.

Maybe you pray as the first thing when you wake up. Maybe you pray before you go to bed each night. Maybe you pray while you’re driving, perhaps imagining Jesus or Mary in the seat beside you. Maybe you make a daily visit to Jesus here really present in our tabernacle. When and where you pray each day is not as important as the prayers you offer and the connection and consolation that Christ wants to give you.

Anyone who prays frequently will have times when they sometimes seem to wander about in a desert of unfocused thoughts. By an act of will, we can try digging a hole here or there, looking for new, fresh, spiritual water. But there is an easier way to go about things when our prayer time feels hard and dry.

If we search our memories we can find places and times when God was obviously close and active. Perhaps a time when He silently but clearly spoke to you, or a time when He provided for you in answer to your prayers. Perhaps the births of your children or day you got married are moments that perceivably touched the eternal.

These memories can be wellsprings of grace and consolation for you. Just because we have left a well behind in your past doesn’t mean that well is run dry. What was true then, is still true now and you can go back their in your memories and draw graces from it again. Our grace-filled memories can serve as an anchor of hope, our ever-accessible source for faith and hope in prayer.

There is one more thing I on which I want to speak.  Our psalm said today:

“What we have heard and know, and what our fathers have declared to us, We will declare to the generation to come the glorious deeds of the LORD and his strength and the wonders that he wrought.”

This psalm is not only written for the Old Testament Jews, its meant for us as well. And when it mentions “fathers” here, priests like me are not the fathers it has foremost in mind. Fathers, if your children only hear about God from me, your silence will speak a message to them. It is important that you be a spiritual leader for your family and tell the stories of our faith and of your faith.

Parents, have you ever told your children of “the glorious deeds” that the Lord has done for you? If not, why not? Do you feel reluctant to tell? Or do you think that there is nothing to tell? Either way, a change needs to happen.

So remember, whether you are dry at prayer, or raising children for the Lord, remember to remember.