What is Fatherhood? Fatherhood is more than the donation of one’s genes for the reproduction of human life. Fatherhood includes knowing what is good for another and making the sacrifices to lead them there.
When I was a child, I remember my father taking me to see a movie; it’s not a great movie so I’m hesitant to mention it, but it made us chuckle, Chevy Chases’ Vacation. In this movie Clark Griswald had in mind what he thought the family needed, a vacation to Wally World, and he made every sacrifice he could to get the family there. He drove long hours, he hiked through the desert when the car broke down, and when they arrived to find Wally World closed, he willingly risked going to jail to give them the experience. He was being a father, though of course a misguided and comical one for the sake of the movie.
In today’s Gospel we find the same two aspects of fatherhood, knowledge of the good and a willingness to make the sacrifices to lead others to it. Jesus was trying to teach his disciples to be Fathers. Firstly he taught them to pray. Through prayer God would share with them what was true, and thus what direction to lead others. Secondly he taught them to follow what they find in prayer even when it differs from the opinions of the world. He asked them first, “Who do the crowds say that I am” and then “Who do you say that I am.” There’s a difference between what the world holds to be “true” and what is true. Finally he tells them of the sacrifices that must be made in order to lead the people in this truth of eternal life. They will have to take up their cross and follow him.
Christ knows what it means to be a Father, he learned it from his own Father, and he was passing it on to the future apostles, training them to be Fathers of the Christian people when he left. He showed them that it will be from the revelation of God, through prayer, that they will discover the truth of where we need to go, and that it will take sacrifice, a denial of themselves, to go and to lead others there. But if they do so, then all who choose to follow will experience the resurrection.
No matter how good a Father is, there will always be children who choose not to follow. We know this because God was the first father, and the first of his children, Adam and Eve, both chose a different path. But in Christ we learn of our Father’s willingness to suffer rejection and dishonor, so that we who do not always follow, may grow in conversion of heart; through witness of the extent of his love. And this is how the sacrifices of a father works; it shows the resolve of the father to get the children there; the greater the sacrifice a father is willing to make to get his children somewhere, the greater the place must be. And Christ was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Today we thank God for our Fathers and for fatherhood. For those who have made many sacrifices so that we may be led to the good. May God continue to raise up those who respond to the training of Christ; who will discern the truth in prayer and be willing to make the sacrifices to lead us there. Through God’s grace it is possible.