September 4, 2020.

My dear people of God, today we salute and congratulate our fathers as we celebrate Father’s Day in this extra-ordinary circumstance. I realise that this Father’s Day would be exceedingly difficult for some dads whose children or grandchildren would be unable to visit them due to the restrictions imposed by the stage four lockdown. Whatever your situation may be, we congratulate you for being the backbone of your family.
God willed that a family should be comprised of a dad and mum, and the love that overflows between them be the children. The Book of Genesis stated that God created us “male and female”, (Gen 1:26-27), and that a “man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and both become one flesh”, (Gen 2:24). This special union between husband and wife, (dad and mum), mirrors the special union between Christ and his Church, (Ep 5:31-32).
I want all fathers to know that their role in the family is ordained by God. In families, fathers fulfil a sacred duty as the head of their families, who leads them to greener pastures. Fathers should love their families and lay down their lives for them, just as Christ loves his Church and sacrificed himself for her, (Ep 5:26). They are invited to participate in the joys and sorrows of their family and to be beacons of hope when their family is experiencing a crisis. In moments of dispute, a dad is called upon to be an agent of peace and reconciliation as described by Jesus in the Gospel of today. A dad should also be a man of prayer, (Mt 18:15-20).
A father instils discipline and direction in a family. The Book of Proverbs underscored this father’s role when it said that, “My child, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the child in whom he delights”, (Prov 3:11-12); again, it advised, “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old”, (Prov 23:22); to all children it cautioned, “Hear, O children, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.” (Prov 4:1-2).
Fathers hold a place of authority in families, but they must not be authoritarian. They should emulate Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and to offer his life as a ransom for many.
Fathers are called upon to have a large heart and be compassionate as the father in the prodigal son story, who welcomed back his repentant but wasteful child after he had squandered his wealth on licentious living. He also pleaded with his eldest son, who detested his younger sibling because of his wanton behaviours, to accept him back. According to the father, the younger son “was dead but has come back to life and he was lost but has been found.” (Lu 15:11-32).

We appreciate the challenging work of fathers to ensure that food is on the table for their families. Sometimes, work takes fathers away from their families for an extended period. Fathers should know that they are not expected to work for their families, but to work with their families. It means that there should be a balance between work and the quality time fathers spend with their families, because nothing can replace the physical presence of a husband to his wife and a dad to their children.
Dads should also realise that they are not super-human, they can get tired or worn out or be in error. Dads should know it is okay to admit that they are sometimes overwhelmed; that they need help. The lyrics of the song ‘Lean on Me’ by Bill Withers is also applicable to fathers. Part of the lyrics read:

Sometimes in our lives
We all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there’s always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you’re not strong
And I’ll be your friend
I’ll help you carry on
For it won’t be long
‘Til I’m gonna need
Somebody to lean on

So swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you won’t let show

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!

Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp

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