I’m not going to comment just yet on the new encyclical Laudato si from the Holy Father on the care of the environment. It will take some digesting! But let’s not forget that in his 2008 Christmas address to the Roman Curia, Pope Benedict XVI called marriage “the sacrament of creation” – so more on that next week.
Author Devin Schadt writes: “Human fatherhood, having its share of failings and sins, appears to offer ample excuse for humanity to disbelieve the proposal of its iconic value. Despite this problem, however, the frequent ability of imperfect, fallen men to love and desire good for their children powerfully signifies the perfection of an all loving and completely merciful Father.”
Father’s Day on Sunday is a time to be thankful for and remember our fathers or the men who have been like fathers in our lives, but especially to be grateful for our Heavenly Father! Many have a great relationship with their father, but sadly, others have fathers who are absent emotionally, spiritually or physically. This can create a “father wound” that can then negatively reflect onto God the Father. A father’s love, example and teaching should lead us to the ultimate Father, God the Father. Sometimes our father is a wonderful example and other times he is not. Nevertheless, we need to remember that we all have human fathers, so we all need the ultimate Father regardless of how good or bad our human father is or was.
We see and feel the effect of broken fatherhood in our society daily: the family is breaking down. Most men are called to be husbands and fathers and to lead their families. In leading their families in a spirit of undying sacrifice and service, their children can see an example of true masculinity. They can see a man who protects, defends and leads with love and courage. He is someone who is not afraid to die to self to serve those around him. We hear this in Scripture, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Ephesians 5:25-26). This is a tall order! It’s not something the culture promotes. If anything the cultures teaches all of us to do the exact opposite! This is precisely why we need husbands and fathers to live up to their God given roles!
So what if your father has fallen victim to the illusions society promotes and has rejected his responsibility to love his wife and family as Christ loved the Church? Pray for him, pray for him again, then pray for him some more. Also pray for yourself and all the people that he may have hurt. Then work on forgiving him, even if he has died, which can be a great challenge! But that’s part of living the Christian life, isn’t it? Accepting and embracing the challenge of truly forgiving him will set you free. There’s such a beauty in forgiveness, which enables us to love them and want their good. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy; fathers aren’t exempt from this need.
So if you or someone you know has a ‘father wound,’ I pray that you will pray extra hard for them. If this seems like a daunting task, ask God the Father to help you forgive your father. We must be like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son – equally prodigal in our forgiving. During the Year of Faith I ran a pilot spiritual exercise programme for adult children of divorced parents called Recovering Originswhich enabled the participants to arrive at a point of forgiving their parents for the break-up of the family and move on from their inner pain, precisely because they were individually helped to reconnect with their heavenly and always faithful Father Almighty. So ask God the Father to reveal Himself to you as Father, to show you what true and perfect fatherhood looks like. Also ask Him to heal you from your father wounds. Remember, God the Father is perfect, your earthly father is not! So let the love of the Almighty God who created the universe and created you, outpour His love onto you. He wants to embrace you and heal you from all your wounds! Sometimes you just have to ask and allow Him to do so!
And so now for some interesting links to Father related stuff…!
And an interview with Dr Scott Hahn on fatherhood.
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster