Within a number of countries, today marks the event in the national calendar known as 'Fathers' Day'. Convention dictates that greeting cards are purchased and penned, gifts are offered, and time given to 'fathers'.
Social commentators will immediate emphasise the very term 'father' is not (and should not be) confined to those who are biological parents. On the contrary, the complexities of modern living and atypical domestic arrangements, make clear that there are many who fulfil a fatherly responsibility or foster a paternal care for those with whom there is no biological connection. Nor is this group limited to those who might be termed 'step parents', 'foster parents' or 'adoptive parents'. We should not be surprised by this. These are, it might be said, simply labels. What matters is not the 'title' or 'label' but the authenticity of the care and commitment which it seeks to capture.
Likewise, in our own times, the reach of paternal care and responsibility has become source material for much comic humour: 'the bank of dad', 'dad's taxis' are two common examples. So too is the person of 'dad' offered as the benign, but inept fossil and vehicle of social embarrassment. In this way, the parody of 'dad' has long-since displaced the now politically incorrect 'mother-in-law' jokes. Each in its own way indicates that we associate with the term 'Father' or 'Dad' a consistency; not to say inertia. These associations, in turn, stem from society's portrayal of the character of fatherhood. One in which, it would appear, we are readily complicit.
By contrast, the Gospels, furnish us with a somewhat different figure of fatherhood. We are, in the words of the Our Father (Lk 10:2), instructed to call God 'Father'. But what sort of father is He? He is the Father who is the source of all that is good. The Father in whom all things have their being. This is the same Father who is mighty. Yet, His might is like no other. Its uniqueness is not in its vastness or its infinite character, but rather, that through His love and Mercy, He places that might, power and strength at our disposal. Are we mistaken?
The Psalmist tells us the heavens are 'telling' the glories of God and the wonder of His works (ps 19). Who then, can overlook the fact that He is the author of all that is? One need only think of the dialogue between God the Father and Job: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (Job 38:4). This is the living God whose thoughts bring life into being. How then, can we doubt His might? What then of His love and mercy?
In the parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15:11), Jesus leaves us in no doubt of the incessant nature of God's love and his vigilance in seizing upon every opportunity to bring us to the safety of His house and the dignity which He has laid aside for us:
"But, while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion and ran and embraced him and kissed him..."
Such is this desire, that, as John reminds us (Jn 3:16), He gave His only son that we might not perish. That is, His only son who, for all eternity, carries in His Sacred Heart the desire to reunite His people to Him.
Perhaps in response to the civic invitation to set today aside as 'Fathers' Day' we might instead recognise today as 'The Father's Day'. That is, the day which He has made (ps.118). A day in which, again and again, He makes a gift of Himself to us. In this way, we might not only rejoice and be glad, but in reparation for all He continues to suffer for our sake, honour Him in gratitude. In lieu of the greetings card, we might offer a prayer of thanksgiving. In lieu of the earthly gifts, we might make a gift of ourselves. Likewise, we might also wish to spend time with Him. Whilst we may not be able to visit Him in our Churches, we might instead, invite Him to once more make His home within us. Whatever the distance, we may be sure that He will run out and embrace us.
Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, pray for us.
God the Father of Mercy, have mercy on us.