Sunday, June 18, 2017

The 'Eucharistic' Love of a Good Father

(Corpus Christi 2017 (A): This homily was given on June 18, 2017 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read John 6: 51-58.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Corpus Christi 2017]

 Professor Anthony Esolen, in his book “Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture,” writes the following:
What is the single condition of a boy’s life that correlates most strongly with whether he will turn criminal?  Not income, not by a long shot. It is whether he grew up in the same home with his father.  Our prisons are full to bursting with fatherless boys who never became the men and fathers that God meant them to be.
This is something that many people are not aware of.  They think that poverty is the major reason why many young men (especially from our inner cities) end up in prison, but it’s not.  It’s a factor in the equation, for sure, but it’s not the major factor.  The major factor is the absence of a father (or at least a father-figure) in a young man’s life.

After I read this in Anthony Esolen’s book the other day, I went online to do some further research on the matter, and these are some of the statistics I came across:

·         90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
·         63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
·         85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes
·         71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
·         75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes

You get the picture.

The point here is simple: FATHERS MATTER!  Their love matters; their encouragement matters; their presence matters; their discipline matters; their forgiveness matters—and their example in every dimension of life (including the spiritual dimension) matters!

Our role model in all this is God, our heavenly Father.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a spiritual father like me, or a natural father as so many of you are, the heavenly Father is to be our standard.  In other words, when we want to know what a father is supposed to be like, first and foremost we are to look to him.  His Fatherhood is perfect; ours is imperfect.  That’s extremely important to remember, because very often people make the mistake of judging God according to their own experience of earthly fatherhood.  And so, if their father was not very kind or loving or forgiving, they project those qualities onto the Lord.  They have trouble relating to God as “Father” because they’ve made their human father their standard of fatherhood—which is the exact opposite of what they should do.  The Catechism puts it this way in paragraph 239:
The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.

Which brings us to the feast we celebrate in the Church this weekend: the Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body and Blood of Christ).

This is a moveable celebration, which means that it doesn’t fall on the same Sunday every year.  This year it happens to coincide with Father’s Day—which I think is extremely providential, because you could say that an earthly father’s love for his children is supposed to be “Eucharistic.”

Think, for a moment, about how the Eucharist came to us.  It all started with the heavenly Father.  In the Creed we say that God the Son was eternally begotten of the Father.  This means, quite simply, that from all eternity the heavenly Father gave his “best” to his Son.  He shared his divine life in its fullness with him.  As the Catechism says in paragraph 246 (and here I quote):  “The Father has, through generation, given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father.”

The Son, in turn, came to this earth 2,000 years ago, was born of the Virgin Mary, and gave his “best” to all of us.  He did that by suffering and dying for us on the cross, and by giving us a living memorial of that event in the Holy Eucharist. 

The Eucharist is, therefore, the best the Lord has to give: it’s his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.

May the Lord help us to appreciate this gift more and more each time we come to Mass.

Jesus ties it all together in this gospel text we just heard from John 6 when he says, “Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me.”

The Father gave his best to his only begotten Son in eternity; the Son gives his best to us in the Holy Eucharist, and we fathers are supposed to give the same thing—our best—to our children.

That’s why I said a few moments ago that an earthly father’s love for his children is supposed to be “Eucharistic.”

And so, dads, when you receive Communion today, ask for that grace.  Say, “Lord Jesus, you gave your very best to me when you died on the cross for my salvation, and you continue to give your best to me by coming to me in the Holy Eucharist.  By the grace I receive in this sacrament today, help me to give my best—my very best—to the children you’ve entrusted to my care.  Amen.”