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Happy Father's Day

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

My dear encountered couples:

We make it our aim to please him whether we are with him or away from him.” That was St. Paul’s attitude in regard to God. The goal of his every action of his every day was to please God. There was nothing else he wanted more.

Paul preferred to be with God, he would like to have left his body and gone to heaven to live in the visible presence of God. But he knew that was not God’s will for him as yet. And so, he was willing to stay in this world as long as God wanted him to, doing as much of God’s work as he could. “We would much rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord,” he wrote in his letter to the Christians in Corinth. “This being so, we make it our aim to please him whether we are with him or away from him.”

Paul’s goal was not to make converts, to win souls, to establish churches, to see to it that everyone was living up to their faith. Paul’s goal was not spreading the good news by word of mouth or letter. His goal was to please God. And whatever that took, he was willing to do it. Or at least try very hard to do it.

Children like to please their fathers. Daughters seek to be their father’s favorite, sons seek their father’s approval. To be daddy’s little girl even after she grows up to raise her own brood of little girls and boys gives a daughter the feeling of beauty and worth she needs. To receive a father’s praise, to see pride in his eyes for his boy, to hear him brag to others of the fine young man that is his son, a son becomes filled with the self-esteem and confidence he needs to stand on his own two feet and become somebody.

We all want to be loved and approved by our parents, by both of them. But how many of us feel we have never been able to match up to the standards set for us by our fathers?

It is not only in movies that we see children trying to win their father’s notice and approval, it happens in real life more often than we might like to admit. How many fathers are there who devote their lives to making enough money for the support of their children, only to find after it is all said and done, there is little closeness between them and their children. There are many sons and daughters and fathers who are miles apart not only in distance but in heart - while all the time yearning for closeness and friendship with one another, love and approval. I am going to let you in on a secret.

It is not only sons and daughters who seek the approval of their fathers, it is also fathers who would like to be approved by their children. St. Paul lived to please his Father God. Did God want to be approved by Paul? I deeply suspect so!

God our Father sent his son into the world to show us what a wonderful father we’ve got in heaven. Up to that time the Jewish people pretty much looked upon God as the pagans looked upon their gods. Strict, stern, judgmental, critical, and frightening.

To please God seemed like an impossibility. But they never gave up trying. The many rules and regulations the Jews had in their religious law books, and the additions they kept making to them, show how much they wanted to please God. But did they?

I don’t think they were ever too sure. Their idea of God was a demanding God, a punishing God, a hard-to-please God. But in reality, he was not like that. And so, he sent Jesus to show and tell people about his real self.

Jesus was to be the spitting image of his Father. “When you see me,” he told them, “you see my Father,” who he told us is also our Father. He told the parable of the Prodigal Son and the Lost Sheep to emphasize even more the limitless and unconditional love God has for each and every one of us. God our Father wanted our love and approval. He sent his Son to live with us in hopes of getting it.

But fathers have a disciplinary role to play, don’t they? It’s part of their job description. Children obviously need discipline, or they will run wild and wilder as time goes on. Which we all know is not good for them.

Traditionally fathers are the ones expected to apply the discipline. But I’m afraid that tradition has a way of getting way out of hand. Father is not to be billed exclusively for playing the part of the bad guy while mother gets to be the good guy. Such an arrangement robs both children and fathers of the warm and close relationship they need with one another.

The gentle, soft, and loving side of a father should be as evident, or more so, than the tough love side. It should be obvious to children that their father’s disciplinary actions are harder and more unpleasant for him than they are for them. It is certainly that way with our Father in heaven.

How so very much God wishes we didn’t need rules and regulations and discipline! But it is for our own good. Though he shows true love for us by administering discipline, I’m afraid he loses out on our approval of him as our Father. Tough love may be hard for fathers to administer, even for God to administer, but to children it often looks like their fathers enjoy it.

It is not only children who spend a great amount of time and energy trying to win the approval of their parents, especially their fathers, it is fathers, even God our Father, trying to win approval of their children. I wonder how many children and fathers die estranged from one another. How many never connect but live their entire lives at odds with one another.

Today is Father’s Day. May it see the beginning of a better relationship between fathers and their children. Have you ever noticed how pets, especially dogs, go out of their way to give us love and win our approval? If they can do it, why can’t we? Why don’t we? Maybe it’s because dogs don’t have pride to overcome. Maybe we should try a little harder to step on our pride.


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