The Work of the Father

Bulletin Article, Ordinary Time Sunday 12C

The older I get, the more I realize how much I’ve become like my father. My dad and I are both calm and easy-going most of the time, and we are men of few words. My dad has spent most of his life doing maintenance on appliances, vehicles, lawns, and lots of other things, and while I haven’t exactly done the same, I’ve always enjoyed tinkering. I remember that when I was starting college, in one of my classes we did introductions. We were supposed to give our names and something interesting about ourselves. And when it was my turn, I couldn’t think of anything interesting, so I said that I like to fix things. 

In the Book of Genesis, the original vocation given to Man (the name ‘Adam’ in Hebrew is identical to their generic term for ‘human being’ or ‘man’) was “to cultivate and care for” God’s creation (Genesis 2:15). God placed Adam as the head of maintenance for the Garden of Eden. He was to imitate God’s fatherhood and providence by working to enhance, maintain, and restore the beauty of the garden. Anyone who has tried to keep a garden knows how much work it can be to keep it weeded, watered, fertilized, and pest free. 

This work of maintenance is a cooperation with God’s own ongoing work of creation and redemption, keeping and bringing things back into working order, into harmony with the design of the Creator. When Jesus was criticized for healing on the Sabbath, he replied, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (John 5:17). God did not set the world in motion just to leave it to its own devices, but as a loving Father, he is constantly at work to keep his creation on course to its final goal and to draw us back to himself.

This Sunday, we give thanks to God for all the ways that our dads have given us life, love, and good example, for how they have imitated God’s own work of creation and ongoing providence in the world. We also intercede for them and ask God’s forgiveness for the ways that they fall short, as we all fall short, of the high ideal to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). My dad expresses his love for his children more through his actions than through many words, and this is probably typical of fathers in general, but I hope you’ll take this Father’s Day as an opportunity to express in word and in deed your gratitude for your own father and all that he has been for you over the years.

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:14-17). 

Happy Father’s Day. 

The Power of God

Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 10C

A common approach to praying with the Scripture readings is to use your imagination to try and picture the scene of each reading and to place yourself somewhere within the scene. You can either imagine that you take the part of one of the characters already in the story from Scripture, or you can just be an observer or another character not mentioned in the story. During this past week, as I looked over the readings for this Sunday, I was a little distressed that in each reading I identified most strongly with the dead guy. As I imagined the scenes, I found myself in the place of the deceased sons of the widows. Maybe it’s just because I’d like to catch up on some sleep, but more likely, if I’m honest with myself, it’s because I’m not yet fully alive, that so often I let doubts and fears and sins keep me from experiencing the power of God, who is the only one who can bring life out of death.

In the Creed that we pray each Sunday, one of the first things that we profess is that God is “the Almighty,” the All-powerful, that nothing is impossible for God, for God who alone creates all that exists out of nothing. But do we really believe that, that nothing will be impossible for God? And do we rely on that power of God to overcome the death that we find in ourselves? To overcome the doubts and despair, and the feeling that I haven’t made a real difference in the world? Do we rely on God’s power to make it through the overwhelming sense of loss when we experience the death of someone close to us? There are certain problems that have no human solutions, and when it comes to facing these problems, our continual quest to figure ourselves out only keeps us from surrendering in faith to the power of God, who alone can save us. 

Our second reading today from Galatians was also about a dead man. St. Paul, before his conversion was dead in his sins as he “persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.” And St. Paul was saved from his sins only “through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” He was raised from the dead so that he could set the world on fire for the love of Christ. What are the sins and patterns of sin in own our lives that we’ve tried to put behind us only to fall into them time and time again? Sins of anger, resentment, selfishness, impurity. Have we despaired of ever truly being free from these sins? Is anything impossible for God? 

Most of us believe in God’s power to save in a general way, but when it comes to ourselves, when it comes to me, do I still believe that God can and wants to save me? In the life of St. Paul or Mother Teresa, God can do wonderful things, but in my own life, can God ever work his miracles? Can he free me from the doubts and despair, the pointlessness of it all, the fear that even as a priest, I’ve made very little difference? Because I’m shy and boring and tired and inexperienced, is it still possible that God can make use of me and bring me to life? And if you’re overwhelmed and impatient and easily distracted and lazy and far too busy, is it really possible that God can make use of you and change the world through you? Nothing will be impossible for God.

At every Mass, we witness “a revelation of Jesus Christ,” who alone has the power to save and transform every last one of us. In the Eucharist, we witness and receive Jesus Himself who fills us “with every grace and heavenly blessing,” with the very power of God, with all that we need to be raised from death into life, and to overcome all the doubts, fears, sins, and sorrows of this passing life. Jesus, as he does in the Gospels, watches and waits for our response of faith, for our surrender and cooperation with this power of God. Jesus wants to meet us where we are most vulnerable, in our insecurities, in our sinfulness. He wants to meet us precisely in those places and problems that have no merely human solution. Jesus Christ, “true God and true man,” is the only solution. Jesus is our only hope.