Today’s Gospel tells us: “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
When Jesus speaks of our Father in heaven, He describes Him as one who cares for us in such a way that takes care of even our smallest needs, and takes away all of our fears. That is probably the most fundamental aspect of being a father: he protects and takes care of his children.
But a father does this in a unique way: he does it as a man. Because while male and female are both created in God’s image, completely equal in dignity, there remain many differences between men and women. Equality does not mean sameness. For the last few decades our society has made great strides in understanding this male/female equality. Unfortunately, in the process we’ve lost sight of what the differences mean. So as we have of grown in our appreciation of the dignity and identity of women, the dignity and identity of men has become confused.
Psychologists tell us, as does common sense, that men tend to be more for lack of a better word aggressive, while women tend to be more nurturing. This isn’t to say that men aren’t loving or that women aren’t strong, but that the love and strength of men and women are predominately expressed in these different ways.
In a man, his “aggressiveness” needs to be lived out, or he’ll never be happy, always trying to become someone he isn’t. Sometimes people try to make men less aggressive and more nurturing, more like women. But while men can definitely learn a lot from women, instead of asking how a father should love as a man, some try to make fathers love like women, especially by suppressing the distinctly aggressive aspects of their masculinity.
And how do fathers react? Men denied the opportunity to express their aggressiveness in constructive ways, often tend to abuse it in destructive ways. Some react by fighting, so we see that spousal and child abuse is way up over the last few decades. Others make strategic retreats, looking for another place to exercise their masculinity. Some abandon their spouses and children, while others retreat without ever leaving home, perhaps by having a mistress or throwing themselves into their careers.
What should a man do? Does Christ offer us an answer? In Christ, fathers see what a true man should be like: they love by being aggressive for their families. A Christian father follows Jesus’s counsel in today’s Gospel to “fear no one.” He’s not afraid of outsiders who try to hurt or mislead his children, and he’s not afraid of his children, not afraid to love them by teaching them, correcting them and disciplining them.
He becomes a man by laying down his life for his family, not by running away. And just as his heavenly Father knows when even a sparrow falls to the ground, he aggressively seeks to know when his children are near trouble, and he protects them.
This weekend, as America celebrates Father’s Day, we turn to the Gospel and, by keeping our eyes fixed on Christ, who is the Son and image of the Father, we learn what a true father is and does how a father loves. In Christ and His Father we see what fathers were created to be, and the promise of the grace necessary to become a true man, a true a father, in Christ.
Fr. De Celles is Parochial Vicar of St. Michael Parish in Annandale, Virginia.
(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)