A Father’s Day Reflection

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At the age of 65 it seems appropriate to reflect on fathers today. As a father of three, I have been graced by three wonderful children who have started their families. Two of them, my son and my older daughter have children, while my youngest is just beginning her family life with a fellow culinary arts lover.

To my son and my son-in-law, Happy Father’s Day.

My Dad

My Dad (1927 – 1986) provided a good example of a father’s sacrifice for family. He worked hard to give us the fundamentals of a stable family life. Food, shelter, clothing, and education for my sister and me proved to be a very demanding challenge for a man with only a 6th grade education. But he dedicated his life to giving us a great start in this world.

As his son, I appreciated his sacrifices. He did not pursue personal goals at the expense of his family. What I admire most, at this age, is the fact that he did this without the guidance of his father. I know nothing about grandfather Allen except is name since my dad is Jr.

Happy Father’s Day Dad.

Role Models

My dad had one role model that I’m aware of; his name was John. He and my dad would hunt and fish together. Dad passed on to me the discipline necessary for starting the day early by taking me fishing in Newport. I still start my day early. Thanks Dad.

We all need role models to be good fathers. As a Catholic, I was introduced to two other men who defined fatherhood for the Catholic community. I will discuss them below. They are the essence of paternal ideals for Christians of all denominations. Both of them approached fatherhood with a commitment to God. It is important to reflect on them today.

Abraham

The patriarch Abraham had many great challenges in life. He is identified with a Jewish culture that revered legacy. He longed for a son to carry his family name beyond his time.

In her youth, Abram’s wife Sarai was unable to provide that legacy. At one point, she offered her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, to bear a child for his heir. (At that time Abraham was known as Abram).

Abram honored her request and Hagar bore him a son, Ishmael. But when Ishmael was seven years old, God spoke to Abram and made a covenant that Sarai would bear a son. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. He promised Abraham an heir by his wife Sarah. God promised to bless Abraham and Sarah’s son who would “give rise to nations, and rulers of people shall issue from him.”. The son was named Isaac.

This communication with God is the foundation of Abraham’s fatherhood. He appealed to God to favor Ishmael, to care for his first son. The love of this father for his son gave Abraham the courage to try to protect Ishmael.

We are all familiar with God’s test of Abraham when Isaac was born. Abraham trusted God with Isaac’s life as he trusted God with Ismael’s life. He accepted the test and God spared Isaac.

As a father, Abraham’s challenges continued. He was not simply a family man; he was the father of a nation. He was responsible for the loyalty and dedication of an “extended family” to his God. And Abraham proved himself worthy of that paternal role.

Joseph

The surrogate father of Jesus was also a loyal Jew. His commitment to God and Jewish law is documented in the gospels.

Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. He considered divorcing Mary when he learned she was pregnant before they began living together. But God again intervened, and Joseph responded. Like Abraham, he trusted God.

Joseph protected Mary and Jesus from Herod. He obeyed God and moved them out of harms way. He also demonstrated, as the worldly father of Jesus, that he loved his son. “He heard however that Archelaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judea and he was afraid to go back there. Instead, because of a warning received in a dream Joseph went to the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth.” [Mt 2, 22 – 23]. This passage makes it clear that Joseph had embraced Jesus as his son; Joseph feared for his family and God replied.

Different Father Models

The life of Abraham is well documented in the book of Genesis. His position as patriarch is firmly established. He is revered as a leader and a source of inspiration. The life of Joseph is scarcely mentioned in the gospels. He is the silent, behind-the-scenes patriarch who leads his family without fanfare. Both fathers are humble in the eyes of God. They are obedient to God’s call for them in this world. And both are reflected in their sons. They are good men as God created good men.

Joseph was not successful as the world defines successful. But his son is eternally successful on earth and in heaven as the obedient son and as the obedient Son. As fathers, this is the gift God offers us. Sons who carry our legacy into the world.

However, God gives us more. He gives us daughters too. They carry our family legacy to other families. They add the gift of life to both families as the mother of their children and our grandchildren. They create the “extended family” of Abraham for us.

As fathers we cherish all of our children. We thank God for the opportunity to share our lives with them.

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