IMITATING OUR HEAVENLY FATHER
One of the most precious images we have of God is as our Heavenly Father. Jesus Himself taught His followers to think of “the One who is and was and is to come, the Lord Almighty” as “Our Father” whenever we pray. What a radical image that Christ offered to His disciples – telling them not to think of our All Powerful Creator as a distant God, as someone or something separate and far from us, but to relate with our Maker as our Father! And numerous examples Jesus offered highlighted this comforting image – think of the most beautiful story Jesus ever taught, the parable of The Prodigal Son, which more appropriately should be called the Parable of The Loving Father.
God as a compassionate, merciful, forgiving, grace-filled Father, One whose love for us is unconditional and unlimited, this is our understanding of Our Heavenly Father. That is the image of God for all Christians to embrace and hold onto.
I highlight this image of God because today our country commemorates Father’s Day. Today we celebrate and honor our fathers, and all the father figures in our lives, and thank God for the blessing they have been in our lives and the lives of many. Fathers can play such a central and influential role in our lives.
I think of my own father and thank God that I had a wonderful role model – one who tried to live all that he preached. One of the greatest lessons I learned from my father, which exemplifies his spirit, is his sincere love and generosity towards the poor, needy and defenseless. He always incarnated God’s divine love to those in need. “If you are going to err,” he would say, “Err on the side of generosity! Err on the side of helping others in as generous a way as possible!”
Throughout his life, my father tried to offer to all a clear vision of life according to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. While preaching the Good News through countless moving sermons, and trying to live faithfully according to our Orthodox tradition, he also desired to offer every possible opportunity for his children and others to discover and embrace that same intimate, dynamic relationship with God for themselves.
Fathers can truly play a central and influential role in our lives. As I googled Father’s Day, I liked some of these saying I found:
One father is worth more than a hundred school teachers. George Herbert
My father didn’t tell me how to live; He lived and let me watch him do it. Clarence Kelland
A dad is someone who wants to catch you before you fall, but instead picks you up, brushes you off, and lets you try again. A dad is someone who wants to keep you from making mistakes, but instead lets you find your own way, even though his heart breaks in silence when you get hurt. A dad is someone who holds you when you cry, scolds you when you break the rules, shines with pride when you succeed, and has faith in you even when you fail. Author Unknown
Father, Your guiding hand will remain with me forever. Author Unknown
If Jesus called us to understand God as our Father, He obviously has a very high understanding of what a Father should be. A Father is supposed to be a model of love, peace, and joy; an example of someone who is compassionate to the marginalized, generous to the poor, ready to help those in need, merciful and forgiving to those who have fallen. A father is one who is faithful, an encourager and supporter of others, a caregiver and a protector of his loved ones. A father is one who guides His family – who leads first by his example, and second who walks hand in hand with his family, guiding them on a path that leads into the Kingdom of God.
As I reflect on fathers, I think of something that Fr. Alkiviadis Calivas, my former beloved professor, shared with our group in Albania 10 days ago. He said that all Christians, and I could underline these central traits in true fatherhood, are called to reflect two fundamental characteristics. We are called to be “philotheoi” and “philoptochoi.” These two Greek words summarize our Christian life as “philotheoi” (friends/lovers of God) and “philoptochoi” (friends/lovers of the poor). Jesus Himself said that the two greatest commandments were to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbor, the other. We can’t say we love God if we don’t love the other, and we can’t truly love the other if we don’t see the image of God within them and then love them with the agape love that God fills us with.
On Father’s Day, we lift fathers who love their wives, who are present and available to their children, who support and care for their families, who protect their homes, and above all, who teach their family to fear the Lord and lead them on the path of the Kingdom of God!
A most blessed and joyous Father’s Day to all fathers everywhere!