By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored”— Matthew 6:9
The Third Sunday of June is celebrated in our country as Father’s Day. Other countries, however, celebrate Father’s Day on different dates, which would remind us that remembering our fathers should not be once a year only, but rather throughout the whole year, every moment of our lives.
Taking a glimpse of the history of Father’s Day would give us the impression that celebrating this day seems to be just an afterthought. One version of the historical origin says that a woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd came up with the idea of honoring and celebrating her father while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at church in 1909. She felt as though mothers were getting all the acclaim while fathers were equally deserving of a day of praise. Although fathers could also be mothers at the same time, in the same manner that single mothers could also be fathers to their children.
Sonora’s father, William Smart, a veteran of the American Civil War, was left a widower when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. He went on to raise the six children by himself on their small farm in Washington, USA. To show her appreciation for all the hard work and love her father gave to her and her siblings, Sonora thought there should be a day to pay homage to him and other fathers like him. She initially suggested June 5, the anniversary of her father’s death to be the designated day to celebrate Father’s Day, but due to some bad planning, the celebration in Spokane, Washington, USA, was deferred to the third Sunday in June. And that was June 19, 1910.
But there’s another story of the first Father’s Day in the US which happened earlier in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5, 1908. Grace Golden Clayton suggested to the minister of the local Methodist church that they hold services to celebrate fathers after a deadly mine explosion killed 361 men.
Whichever its origin Father’s Day is now being celebrated internationally, after it became a national holiday in the US in 1971 under the Nixon Administration. Apparently, other countries all over the world, like ours, picked up this good idea and started celebrating their own Father’s Day.
Father as Metaphor for God
It is interesting to note that father is used as a metaphor for God in the Scriptures, and thus, we have a good theological foundation for fatherhood. Hence, our understanding of fatherhood should be based on our understanding of God as Father.
The Israelites understood God as their father who created and rescued them time and again (cf. Isa. 63:16; 64:8). Our Lord Jesus Christ also called God his father and admonished his disciples to do the same (cf. Jn. 20:17). He taught his disciples to pray and bid them to address God as: “Our Father in heaven” (Mt. 6:9). The church through the ages has been calling God: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Of course, when we call God our Father this does not mean that we could no longer call God our Mother as claimed by some feminist theologians. We cannot limit God’s revelation. In fact, the Scriptures also declare that God is like a mother hen that gathers her chicks under her wings (cf. Mt. 23:37). God is known in Scriptures as loving, compassionate, and caring – all these attributes are associated with motherhood.
What does it mean to call God Father?
When we call God our Father, it would mean first and foremost that we have a very close and intimate relationship with God to the point of calling him our Father. The Israelites would even pray imprecatory prayers and would sing to God songs of laments, because they claimed God as their Father. And so, they were not ashamed or afraid to express their deepest feelings and sentiments to God as their Father, because they knew that God would understand and would listen to their cries.
When Jesus Christ our Lord was about to be arrested by the authorities, he earnestly prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane while his disciples were sleeping. He said, “Father, if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me. Not my will, however, but your will be done” (cf. Lk. 22:42). At the darkest moments of his life, when he had no one to turn to because his disciples abandoned him to die alone on the cross, our Lord Jesus Christ cried to God saying, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”(cf. Lk. 23:34). Jesus Christ our Lord said all these things to God, because he regarded him as his Father.
If we are very close to our own earthly fathers, we could call them Daddy, Dad, Papa, Itay, Tatang, and many others. We could share with them our deepest fears and hopes in life, trusting that they could understand and could accept us just as we are.
But there are those who could not call God their Father, because unfortunately they don’t have a good earthly father. The great Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther, could not call God his Father, because he didn’t have an intimate or close relationship with his own earthly father. He didn’t have any good memories of him. His earthly father was a very stern and strict disciplinarian. That’s why Luther had to emphasize in his theology later on that we are justified before God not by works but by grace through faith.
What does it mean to be a father?
And so, to be a father is not simply to sire children. To be a father is to mirror in our relationship with our children the fatherhood of God. To call God our Father is to be a good and responsible father to our children.
Moreover, to call God our Father would also mean that we have to care and love each other as brothers and sisters under God’s Fatherhood.
The Israelites called God their Father, because they believe God created them and gave them life and saved them from slavery and death. Jesus Christ our Lord called God his Father because he believed God is always there when he would turn to him in times of sufferings, frustrations, hopelessness, and even death.
As father to our children, we could not do less than that. Amen. # nordis.net