Sunday, May 21, 2017

The love of a Father

A few years ago my daughters were having some trouble with one of the other children at the bus stop.   I don’t remember the details.   What I do remember is at one point I made them write an apology out and take it to her in front of her parents.  I had hoped that would end the argument and they’d go back to getting along.  A few days later a little, angry man stomped across my driveway and stood over me in a threatening manner.   He demanded that they stop bothering her or I’d be the one to answer for it.   Amazingly I remained calm and informed him that I’d just instruct my girls not to go near his daughter.  I don’t think he and I have spoken since.   I have prayed for him but also for myself.

What I did not realize at that time, as I was just a new father and had not been doing this long, we dads often go to the defense of our kids.   We are ready to stand up for them.   When someone causes them pain we want to end it, but when someone is good to them we like that person even more.   Jesus mentions something to this effect, if you love Jesus, the Father will love you.  I’ve been a dad for eleven years now.  I understand exactly what He meant.  When someone behaves in an admirable way toward my children, my thoughts about that person instantly are better.  Simultaneously, when someone is mean to them, even if they were someone I liked, I’m not going to be as generous in my feelings towards them.

What do we do then?  We are supposed to love every person.  How can I get upset with someone for hurting my kids?  That’s the funny thing about love, isn’t it?  It’s a choice.  It doesn’t mean that we like the person.   It also doesn’t mean that we just simply let them do whatever they want.   It rather means we want what is best for them.  That when we pray for them, we pray for their best interest, not our own.   That when we speak to them, it is the truth.   We don’t hide that from them.   Instead, we speak the truth gently and humbly.  As St. Paul declares eloquently in the second reading,  do it with gentleness and reverence.   That’s a tall order sometimes, especially when we are feeling defensive for our children, our spouses, or even ourselves.

The hard part is we are called to evangelize.   There is a Gospel message that should bring joy and hope to all who hear it.  St. Paul informs us that we should always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.   What should we say?  How should we say it?  That depends on the person, the situation, and even where you are at the time.  It also depends on our prayer life, maybe even more than our own knowledge.   It’s good to learn scripture.   It’s admirable to memorize verses and to practice apologetics.  One's time could be spent doing much worse than reading holy books by good, solid Catholic authors.  The more we learn the better equipped we will be when the time comes for us to speak about God.   That real key though lies not in our own abilities, but in our acceptance of the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to work through us.

When Jesus was about to ascend into Heaven at the end of his earthly ministry, He told His disciples that He would send an Advocate to be with us.   This Holy Spirit, He tells us, will give us the words to speak when the time comes, and will remind us of what Jesus Himself said in our hour of need.  This is not only a powerful promise but one that should fill us with hope and joy.  I am not the smartest man.  I did go to college for four years studying computer science and electrical engineering.   After that, though I spent fifteen years as a commercial electrical foreman before I hurt my back.   During those fifteen years, I didn’t do a significant amount of reading.  I played video games and worked.   The finer philosophical and theological discussions were boring to me.   When it came to faith, it was something I did on the weekend.   I read the bible from time to time and even memorized some verses.   In a way though, I trusted God to give me the words to say when I needed it.  

I still trust the Holy Spirit to do just that.   However, I want to study.   I want to know more.  I want to know the philosophy behind what we believe and the theology about who Christ is.   Not because I need it to show off.  Not because I need it to get into Heaven either.   Rather, because I am so enamored with my God and Lord that I want to know everything about Him that I can.   I know that when the time comes the Holy Spirit will inspire me to speak, but I also know that God gives us faculties that allow us to remember, to think, and to make our own choices.   I know that when the time comes for Him to inspire me, He is going to use my own experiences, my own words, and my own love for Him to give me the words that will do such a meager job of describing something so beyond our understanding.

The other day we were watching a reboot of a series they made us read in elementary school, Anne of Green Gables.   I remember when I had to read this book I had no interest in it.  It was about a girl.   What I didn’t get was the powerful imagery in the story of an orphan.   A child who believed no one wanted her.  As we watched this poor girl disembark from the wagon at what she believed to be her new home, I was already feeling the emotional tugging that the director had so perfectly weaved into the story.   Then the Lady of the House began to speak of how they must send her back.   The moment when Anne fell to her knees and lost herself in her thoughts I began to realize the power of this story.   She was an orphan.  She was alone in the world.   She feared that she always would be.  Who would be there to help her?   Who would care for her?  Love her?  

That’s often the image we get in our minds of this world.   That we are some strange being that isn’t supposed to be here.   I often hear said, “This world is not my home.” In a way that’s true.   However, we aren’t orphans.   No, we have a Father in Heaven.   We have a spiritual Mother in Mary, who was given to us at the foot of the cross.   We have an Advocate and Guide in the Holy Spirit, who leads mother Church to bring us as close to Heaven as we can be here in the Sacraments.   We never need fear being lost in this world.  As long as we exist we know God has not forgotten us!  He is with us, loving us at all times.  Even when we are at our worst He loves and cares for us.  That’s the promise of our hope, that’s the joy of our hearts.

The thing is:  God loves us exactly as we are, but too much for us to stay there.   I’ve said it a million times but it never stops to be important.   Jesus says it this way in the Gospel, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him."   That’s our first step.  Keeping His commandments.   How do we know them?  We learn them.  The Church teaches them through the Sacred Scripture, through the Catechism, and through the Magisterium.   So we study them.  Through them, we draw closer to Him.   Through them, we learn who Jesus is, and through Jesus, we draw closer to the Father.  It doesn’t take intelligence, just an open heart to be guided by the Holy Spirit, a thirst for the Sacraments to open the stores of grace and pour them into our hearts, and a love for one another that goes beyond simple emotion and pours out in the actions known as the Corporeal and Spiritual works of mercy.  

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter: May 21st, 2017