Sunday, June 15, 2014

Earthly Fathers Who Live In Imitation Of The Heavenly Father



(Trinity Sunday 2014 (A): This homily was given on June 15, 2014, at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read John 3: 16-18.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Trinity Sunday 2014]


All male parents are fathers, but only some of those fathers live in imitation of God, our heavenly Father.

That’s sad; that’s not the way it should be; that’s certainly not the way God wants it—but it’s true nonetheless.

And what’s also true is that those earthly fathers who do live in imitation of the heavenly Father do so in varying degrees.

In other words, some are a lot more like the heavenly Father than others are.

Now what exactly does it mean to be a father to live “in imitation of the heavenly Father”? 

Well believe it or not that question can be answered, in part, on this Father’s Day, by reflecting on the very famous line of Scripture that we heard in our gospel reading a few moments ago.  I’m talking about John 3: 16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

It’s amazing how much we learn about God—and especially about the Fatherhood of God—from that one short verse of the Bible.

This line, for example, was spoken by Jesus (the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity made man), and it’s found in Sacred Scripture (the primary author of which is the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity). 

So here we have God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, TESTIFYING TO THE LOVE OF GOD THE FATHER FOR US!

Obviously God the Father is not afraid to tell us explicitly how he feels about us.  This means that an earthly father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father will not be afraid or hesitant about telling his children that he loves them.

He’ll give them that message because they need to hear it (as they need to hear that God, the heavenly Father, loves them).

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

There was nothing more precious that God the Father could have given us than Jesus, his only begotten Son.

This means that an earthly Father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father will give his wife and children the best he has to give.  That’s another quality he will possess.  And that “giving” will include more than just the material necessities of life.  Archbishop William Lori wrote a great article on fatherhood in the Columbia Magazine this month in which he talks about some of the things that dads are called to give to their families.  At one point in that article he says this: “What else can fathers give their families . . . ?  I suggest a strengthened resolve to show a deeper interest in what is important to their wives and children.  That means putting down the paper, shutting off the television, and turning off the smart phone, computer and other electronic devices.  Only in this way can a husband and father really interact with his family and show them that he is deeply and personally interested in the ups and downs of family life—with what goes on at his children’s school, with the challenges and opportunities his wife is experiencing at work, with the questions his adolescent child may have.”

I guess that’s one way of saying that “the best a father has to give” includes the precious gift of time—as in quality time!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

Obviously that verse makes it clear that the heavenly Father thought that our eternal salvation was worth the sacrifice of his divine Son.

In his eyes—in spite of our sins—we were worth dying for!

We were—and are—that precious to him.

This means that if an earthly father is to live in imitation of the heavenly Father he must never, ever convey the idea to his children that they are worthless and “good for nothing.”

And some, as we all know, do that.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

The whole reason that the Father gave us his Son was to reconcile us to himself.  That is to say, he gave us his Son for the forgiveness of our sins!

And so a father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father will be one who always offers his children—and his wife—forgiveness. 

Of course, he may have to punish and discipline his children at times—that’s true—but he will always do so in a spirit of love and not in a spirit of vindictiveness.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

This verse also reminds us of the fact that God the Father plays no favorites with respect to his children!  John 3: 16 tells us that God gave his Son for the salvation of EVERYONE!   No one is excluded from the Lord’s salvific plan.  He wants ALL his children in heaven with him, not just his divine Son.  In Christ and through Baptism, we are God’s adopted sons and daughters.   And so, as Jesus said in John 14, each of us has a “dwelling place” reserved for us in the kingdom.  Yes, we can reject it if we choose to, but that’s not what God wants.

Since this is the case—since God the Father plays no favorites and wants all his children with him in his kingdom someday—a father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father here on earth will make every effort to love all his children EQUALLY.

Even the wayward ones!

Not easy—but not impossible either.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

The final truth about God the Father that I’ll mention today in some sense summarizes all the others.  Here it is: the greatest concern the heavenly Father has is for the ETERNAL SALVATION of his children.
 
That should be perfectly clear from everything else I’ve said in this homily.

An earthly father who lives in imitation of the heavenly Father will have the same ultimate concern for his children.  Yes, he will want them to be physically healthy; yes, he will want them to become responsible and productive members of society; yes, he will want them to get good educations and good jobs; yes, he will want them to develop their gifts and talents “to the max.”  But more than anything else, he will want them to know, love and serve God here on this earth, so that they will live with him forever someday in the kingdom of heaven.

And every decision that father makes in this life—from taking his family to church on Sunday to setting family priorities—will be made with THAT GOAL in view!

Let me conclude now by saying what should be obvious: It’s not easy to be a father who lives in imitation of God the heavenly Father!  (And, by the way that’s true of spiritual fathers just as much as it’s true of natural fathers.)

In this regard, we all need prayers—lots of them.

At the beginning of my homily I noted that those earthly fathers who do succeed in living in imitation of the heavenly Father do so in varying degrees.

That means, quite simply, that we all can all improve.

May God our heavenly Father, by his powerful grace, help all the fathers here present (including yours truly) to do that in the future.