Bottom line: God is a firm, but compassionate father; he wants us - especially the dads among us - to imitate that firmness and compassion.
On this Father's Day we are praying for our dads, whether they are near or far away, living or deceased. And especially for the dads here in our congregation. It is not easy being a parent. Someone wrote: "The great defect of young people today is that they are rebellious and that they do not pray. And the great anxiety of our day is that prices are constantly rising."* You would think those words came from a recent newspaper, but they didn't. They were found on an Egyptian papyrus from the sixth century B.C.! So, parents, if you are troubled by children who don't listen to you and who resist prayer - and by the constant increase in prices - take heart. You are in noble company and your sacrifice will not be in vain.
Today I would like to tell you about a father who had an unruly son. The boy constantly broke the family rules. The father told his son that if he disobeyed one more time, he would send him to the attic, with only bread and water to eat. Well, he disobeyed again and the father ordered the boy upstairs. The father then became quiet. His wife said to him, "I know what you are thinking. But you must not bring him down from the attic. It would cause him to keep disobeying. He would have no respect for your word." He knew that his wife was right, but the father couldn't eat, thinking about his son. Finally, he grabbed a blanket and a little bit more bread. He joined his son and spent the night with him in the attic.
Today's readings tell us that God is like that father - firm, but compassionate. He says to the Israelites, "If you hearken to my voice and heed my covenant, you shall be my special possession." God is firm. He insists that we hearken to him, that we pay attention to the covenant we have made with him. His covenant is not complicated. It means doing things like telling the truth, honoring our parents and attending Sunday Mass. But then, instead of doing those things, instead of listening to God, we listen to other voices. When we fall, God deals firmly with us - not because he is vindictive or because he likes to see us suffer. No, he deals firmly so that we will get back on the right path.
There is more. Yes, God deals firmly with us, but he is also full of compassion. We see that in the reading from St. Paul. While we were still sinners - even while we were in rebellion against God - he sent his Son. Where the Son is, there also is the Father. Like that father who slept on a hard floor - and ate a supper of bread and water - so God has come to us in Jesus.
And he stays with us. God knows that we often feel troubled and abandoned - like sheep without a shepherd. For that reason his sent his Son. Jesus continues to shepherd us through the apostles and their successors. I heard about a man in Holland who named his son after the apostles, all twelve: Simon, James & Jude - squared - Andrew, Philip, Matthew, Bartholomew, Thomas and John. Can you imagine his email address? Even if you can't remember the names of the twelve, remember this: Jesus has given us shepherds whom we should respect and support - as you have done, for example, in the Annual Catholic Appeal. He also call us to care for others with firmness and compassion. Today we remember especially our dads. May they we be like God our Father: firm, but always compassionate.
*Source: Mil Joyas de Sabiduria by P. Eliecer Sálesman (my translation - from the Spanish, not Egyptian)
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