In short, even the cleverest preacher can’t even begin to do justice to this core truth of Christianity.
But on Father’s Day we can at least try to relate our human experience to the Trinity, and particularly to God as Father. Even then we’re just glimpsing some of the wonders of belief in the Triune God, but it’s a start.
Last night’s Summer Celebration was a huge success. It was a sell-out crowd, but in many ways it felt like a family barbecue. The event testified to many things, including the generosity of our volunteers, the closeness of our community, and the affection we have for Father Giovanni, who was the subject of farewell speeches and songs.
(Speaking of the songs, one of them was sung to the tune of “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” and included the line “Monsignor’s already so lonesome he could cry”—at which point the cheeky singer paused and said “Not that that means much: Monsignor cries at everything.”)
Fair point. But it’s worth a tear or two when we reflect that the greatest thing about last evening was that we were gathered as children of a common Father, truly as brothers and sisters in God who loves us.
The relationship we enjoy as brothers and sisters is an important element of life in the Church. But much more important is the relationship with God as our father. We hear a lot about the need for a personal relationship with Jesus, but we should remember that we are also called to a personal relationship with our heavenly Father.
The monthly scripture magazine The Word Among Us asks a great question in its meditation on today’s feast: “So how is your relationship with the Holy Trinity? Do you tend to focus only on one Person and ‘forget’ to deepen your relationship with the others?”
And it gives us some simple and practical advice: “If you want a better relationship with the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, just ask God to reveal himself to you more deeply. You might just discover some new facet about him” as you continue the conversation.
Just ask. That’s more or less what I said about the Holy Spirit last week. If we feel we lack the relationship with God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—that we hear so much about, we might think over what St. James says in his epistle: “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2)
And when asking God to reveal himself more deeply to us as Father we have a bit of a head start. Although earthly fathers come in all shapes and sizes, with varying degrees of imperfection, we do know what a father is. If our fathers showed us a father’s love, that’s a great place to start. But even if they didn’t, we know what was lacking and what we truly need now.
The first reading today highlights the creativity of God. Of course fathers are pro-creators of their children, a necessary part of their conception.
(For some reason, what are called “Dad jokes” have gone viral on the internet lately. Every one of them is a real groaner, way too corny to tell from the pulpit. But I did stumble across a joke about dads that emphasizes their role in procreation. Four men are in the hospital waiting room because their wives are having babies. A nurse goes up to the first guy and says, “Congratulations! You’re the father of twins.”
“That’s odd,” answers the man. “I work for the Minnesota Twins!”
A nurse says to the second guy, “Congratulations! You’re the father of triplets!”
“That’s weird,” answers the second man. “I work for the 3M Company!”
A nurse tells the third man, “Congratulations! You’re the father of quadruplets!”
“That’s strange,” he answers. “I work at the Four Seasons hotel!”
The last man is groaning and banging his head against the wall. “What’s wrong?” the others ask.
“I work for 7 Up!”)
If the first reading has a certain focus on biological fatherhood, we might say that the second reading applies well to adoptive fathers. St. Paul tells us that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit—love is a free gift because we have been chosen to be God’s sons and daughters.
A couple of young adults and I found the time before Easter to watch Father Dave Pivonca’s video series “The Wild Goose.” It took us a few months to watch all the episodes, but it was worth it—you might want to do the same on YouTube. One of the best episodes was called “The Spirit of Adoption.” In it, Father Dave pointed out that Roman fathers could fairly easily disown their natural children.
“If they angered him, he had the legal right to disown his children, sell them into slavery or even kill them,” one history blog states clearly. (I am glad I didn’t live in ancient Rome!)
But an adoptive father had no such rights. Since the adopted child had been chosen and desired, he was a permanent member of the family. St. Paul has this in mind when he tells us “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a Spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:15).
So whether we look on God as our creator, the one who formed us in our mother’s wombs, or as the God who has freely poured his love into our hearts, Father’s Day is a great day to ask for a deeper and closer parent-child relationship with him.
There’s no opposition between the persons of the Blessed Trinity, so approaching God in his fatherhood will bring us closer to the Son and the Holy Spirit. That’s clear from what Jesus says in the Gospel this morning: “All that the Father has is mine.” These words echo his words earlier in John’s Gospel: “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30).
So today, let’s ask God, who has made himself known to the human race, to make himself known to our hearts, through the Spirit of truth.