SOME REFLECTIONS ON THE READINGS FOR FATHER’S DAY
The Third Sunday after Pentecost
June 21, 2020
The lessons appointed for this Sunday, June 21, which is also “Father’s Day,” remind us in wonderful ways of the loving kindness and gracious, merciful care afforded to us by the GOD referred to by Jesus as his “Father,” his “Abba.”
First of all, let us consider some of the affirmations and prayers found in today’s psalms:
“You, O LORD, are good and forgiving,
and great is your love toward all who call upon you.” (Psalm 86:5)
“In the time of my trouble I will call upon you, for you will answer me.” (Psalm 86:7)
“You, O Lord, are gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth. (Psalm 86:15)
“In your great mercy, O GOD, answer me with your unfailing help.” (Psalm 69:15)
“Answer me, O Lord, for your love is kind; in your great compassion, turn to me.” (Psalm 69:18)
In these verses, we are reminded that God’s Fatherhood is perfect. He is kind and merciful and forgiving, as well as, just towards his children. He has the deepest compassion for them and he is reliably there for them when they need his help, guidance, and encouragement.
Jesus in today’s gospel reading, (Mathew 10:24-39), continues to hold up for us the unparalleled goodness and fatherly care which God extends over all of us and indeed over his entire universe.
Jesus says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. And even the hairs of your head are all counted. So do not be afraid, you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Mathew 10:28-31)
Again, in these and many other verses of scripture, we see the Creator portrayed as the quintessential ideal Father of a family — presiding over his household, the whole creation, but particularly that human family in the midst of it all, not as a malevolent or distant oligarch but in absolute truthfulness, faithfulness, justice with mercy, sincere affection and joyous attention to detail.
Of course, if that vast and intricate creation full of apparent chaos and natural violence with an ever fractious, deeply divided and conflicted humanity at its center were somehow instead to have always perfectly mirrored God’s inherent goodness and generosity, his willingness always to suffer for the other — then, it might all seem too easy for this GOD to be who he is at the end of the day.
Of course, in this fallen world, such in not the case. Instead, as Jesus in the gospel reading reminds us:
“One’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” (Mt. 10:36)
The reality of a human fatherhood and family life, which often falls short of God’s ideal, is evident to all of us in one way or another.
The Old Testament reading for today, (Genesis 21:8-21), bears our consideration as an icon of our familial imperfections. Abraham, Isaac the chosen first-born’s father by his wife Sara, under pressure from her agrees to send away his concubine Hagar with their son Ishmael into the barren wilderness. Abraham proclaims his love for Ishmael yet yields to the exigencies of the situation.
How beautiful, though, that in this story, which continues to resonate in our day among the peoples of the Mideast, it is the merciful and loving Heavenly Father who steps in where Abraham can only fall short and be powerless. Hagar and her son’s prayers are clearly heard by GOD who opens Hagar’s eyes to a well of water in the desert, and who promises to “make a great nation of him (Ishmael).” (Gen. 21:13,18)
Like Abraham, the very best of us fall short or feel powerless in our fathering. I know I do. Therefore, I feel a great debt of gratitude towards my two sons and my daughter who faithfully call me every Father’s Day. In our best moments some of the Heavenly Father’s love shines through us; in our worst, we turn back to the same loving and forgiving Heavenly Father.
We all have fathers as a biological fact. Some of us, however, never knew him at all and wish we had. Others of us, sadly, may never have wanted to know the father we got. Even there, radical forgiveness, as Jesus has shown us, is the way of life.
Thankfully, I think many of us, (and I include my dad in this), can affirm a father who, though imperfect, embodied in his fathering a participation in God’s generosity, faithfulness, and grace towards us.
For us as daughters, sons and fathers, wives and husbands, in all our relationships are called into the Way of Jesus Christ. It is a way of dying to a narrow self-serving, self-centered life in order to enter into a fullness of unending resurrection life beginning now. The World always pressures us with demands of career, self-promotion, and to “find life” in perishable things. The way of the cross is all about laying self aside in order to serve those we love and those who might be unlovely, in Jesus’s Name.
One final point is well worth remembering this Father’s Day:
“He who did not withhold his own son but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”
I think it is not heresy to say that the Father suffered seeing Jesus on the cross. He suffered as any loving father would. Now, however, as Paul proclaims in Romans 6:5 speaking of our baptism, of our taking up this cross with Jesus, Our Lord, and being born into a new God-centered life:
“If we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
As daughters and sons of God in Christ, today we begin to experience the power of an endless life, new creation life within us, a well in the desert, even as we gratefully acknowledge the gifts of our earthly fathers and mothers.
I conclude with a prayer by a family fore-father (Bishop F.D. Huntington – BCP p. 828)
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN