Sunday: God the Father and Father’s Day

God the Holy Spirit gets his celebration on Pentecost. God the Son is singled out on every Christological feast day. But God the Father — though he is never absent — doesn’t get his own special day.

Since Trinity Sunday is also Father’s Day this year, perhaps we can give him some attention today.

In Sunday’s readings, we can learn from God the Father what human fatherhood should be. Here are some of the lessons.

Fathers Should Be Firm but Slow to Anger

In today’s reading from Exodus, when the Lord passes before Moses, he drops to the ground. Moses isn’t intimidated by God because God is aggressive or angry — he is overawed by him because he is pure love.

God calls himself  “a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger.”

It is the same for us: A father’s effectiveness is not measured by his strictness, but by his generous love. Sometimes that love will mean strictness, but never merely temper.

Think of God’s method of dealing with the Israelites. He gave them a clear list of expectations— the Ten Commandments — but in most of his interactions with them he doesn’t punish them, he helps them: He overcomes the Pharaoh, rescues them out of Egypt, gives them Manna in the desert, and leads them to the Promised Land, habituating them to living right.

We should do the same thing for our children: give them clear, real expectations and then lots of patient assistance in fulfilling them.

Fathers Should Be Rich In Kindness

God also says of himself that he is “rich in kindness and fidelity.” Let’s start with kindness.

St. Paul’s letter describes what a Christian culture should look like: “Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.”

We know several families who exhibit just these hallmarks — the children greet visitors, and each other, with enthusiasm, their interactions are marked more often by cooperation than by quarreling, and there is a genuine feeling of joy and peace in their midst.

My wife, April, points out that what these cases usually have in common is a kind father who models that behavior. The father is loving, attentive and eager to help. He is rich in kindness, and so his family is too.

A Father Should Be Faithful

God is also faithful. On Trinity Sunday we see how powerful that fidelity is: It makes Three Persons one God. In turn, God’s powerful fidelity brings unity to the Israelites, overcoming the many dysfunctions the community of former slaves suffers.

Our faithfulness to our families is one of the single greatest gifts we can give our children. This fidelity doesn’t just mean not leaving; it means leading. Good fathers discipline proactively, not reactively. They intervene when their wives are struggling in their interactions with the children. They are the ones promoting Mass and prayer. They know what their children are doing and cultivate the kind of relationship with them that allows them to direct them.

A caveat: The Church shows us this week that those whose fathers were less than faithful need not despair:

·         St. Romuald (951-1027) is celebrated June 19. He saw his father kill a man in a duel and spent his whole life repenting for it.

·         Blessed Michelina (1300-56) was a single mother who lived irresponsibly after losing her husband. Eventually she repented and successfully raised her son without a father.

·         St. Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591) suffered a father who rejected his vocation, but he stayed faithful despite it.

Fathers Should Be Able to Let Their Children Go

Today’s Gospel starts with the “Football Verse” of John 3:16. We are used to hearing those words as commentary on how much God loves the world. But think of what they say about God’s love for his son:

“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

God loved us, so he gave us his son. God didn’t horde his son, he didn’t fear letting him out of his sight, he didn’t keep him by his side: He sent him out.

If we raise our own children with patience, love, fidelity and kindness, then they will very likely be ready to do great things for the world. We need to prepare them to be effective in the real world and be ready to send them when they are ready to go.

Faithful. Kind. Loving. Sending. That’s fatherhood, divine and human.

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes, author of The Rosary of Saint John Paul II and The Fatima Family Handbook, is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Kansas and hosts The Extraordinary Story podcast about the life of Christ. His book What Pope Francis Really Said is now available on Audible. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, Hoopes served as press secretary of the U.S. House Ways & Means Committee Chairman and spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Aleteia.org and the Register. He and his wife, April, have nine children and live in Atchison, Kansas.