I was asked by my Pastor to preach on Father’s Day drawing from Luke’s Gospel 9:18-24.
And Jesus asked his disciples…”Who do the crowds say that I am?”
Then he said to them…”But who do you say that I am?” “+”
Many years ago, when I was living in Houston, TX, I use to teach high school CCD, PSR at my parish. And each school year, during the first class, I would ask a few general questions to the students to get a dialogue going.
First, I would ask them to introduce themselves …name, family, etc.
Then I would ask, “Who is your favorite person in the Bible?
The responses varied… John the Baptist…King David… St. Paul,…Mary… and of course, Jesus was the one name mentioned the most.
Focusing on the response “Jesus”, I would turn to today’s Gospel and read…
“But who do you say that I am?”
Often times, the room would go silent before they would respond, one by one:
- Son of God…Son of the Father
- Good Shepherd, protector, and teacher
- The one that changed water to wine,
- The one who fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish
- The one that walked on water, raised Lazarus from the dead
- The one who died on a cross for our sins
- The Eucharist
- And the occasional I would hear…“Not sure”
After some discussion, I would ask, “Who do your parents say that Jesus is?”
Again the room would go silent and I would have to ask some leading statements to generate discussion about where is Jesus in their day-to-day lives. They responded:1.
- We go to church as a family…or Mom goes but Dad doesn’t (or visa versa).
- We tried to go to Church most Sundays
- We pray at mealtime but that’s about it
- Grandma prays the rosary
- God is private, personal, we believe…but do not regularly talked about
Those discussions from my past haven’t changed over time. How we live out our faith outside the walls of this church building is where we truly witness our faith to our family and others.
And, when it comes to spiritual leadership in the family, Dads matter!
If both father and mother attend regularly
- 33% of their children will end up as regular churchgoers
- 41% will end up attending irregularly
- 25% will end up not practicing at all.
If the father is irregular and mother regular
- 3% of their children will become regulars themselves
- 59% irregular
- Nearly 40% will be lost.
If the father does not attend church at all and the mother regular
- 2% of children will become regular worshippers
- 37% attend irregularly
- Over 60% will be lost completely to the church!
There is a priest, Fr. Larry Richards, who was a guest speaker here at Our Lake of the Lake a few years back. He also wrote a book titled, Be a Man! Becoming the Man God created you to be.
I recall a few comments from his talk.
He says be the spiritual leader for your family,
Be a spiritual protector…and not just a physical protector
He would ask the men…have your children ever seen you at home praying on your knees?
You can’t pass along what you don’t have …you can’t pass along who Jesus is if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus yourself.
On this Father’s Day, I reflect on my own relationship with my dad, he was not different than most men. My dad kept his Catholic faith low key – but yet I did see it at times.
As family, we all went to church every Sunday and Holy Days. I can’t ever recall ever missing Mass growing up. I never saw a Bible openly lying around the house. We said mealtime prayers but not really any other prayers as family.
But I do remember Dad’s prayer poster. He prayed with his hands together, flat, pointing to heaven. I asked him why he did when most men/people did not and he said he wanted to copy his older brother (11 years his senior). He said Grandpa Vaughn wasn’t a church goer, so he look to his older brother for inspiration.
My Dad also passed along a prayer book, later in my adult life. The book titled is, The Young Man’s Guide, published in 1926. The book was a Christmas gift from his brother back in 1946 (Dad was 13 years old).
I won’t ever forget those conversations surrounding that book nor the inscription his brother wrote inside the cover. “Don, In these pages are some of the counsels and helps I would give you if you were to ask me on your own. Your brother, Mason.” — Dad could see Jesus in his brother.
When I reflect of my own Christian witness, as a Father to my own children, I wasn’t much different.
I was active in the parish life and children’s school community, but I could have been a better “hands-on” witness of the faith. I did not encourage them enough to ask me questions about God, Jesus, or the Church.
Recalling a conversation with my daughter, a few years back when she was in college…
She asked me a question based on my relationship with God/Jesus/the Church….specifically her perception of Church showing mercy or lack of it.
When I was visiting, I noticed on her window, a large post-it note stating, I love you, Jordan!
I asked her if she was dating Jordan, and if he was Catholic? (A Dad has to ask!)
Anyway, she said he was just a friend, one of her gay friends.
Then she asked me…. “Do you believe that gay people can go to heaven?” I said, “Yes, of course.”
She then asked, “Doesn’t Christianity teach that gay people are sinners? “
I recall explaining that being gay, lesbian is not sinful in itself, but homosexual acts are a sin. And so is sex outside of marriage, missing Mass on Sunday, getting drunk on purpose…all sins!
Hopefully, with a heart of compassion, I made my point that there are consequences for actions that are “not of God.” And when it comes to heaven, if we die with no repentance of our sins, scripture, which is the Word of God, tells us that we will not obtain heaven.
But I also said…Remember, Jesus is the God of love, the God of mercy.
And as Christians, we don’t cast stones at people that are not in unity with God.
We need to be like Jesus and speak the “Truth in Love.”
We don’t leave them orphaned. We don’t walk away but walk beside them.
Through our love and friendship, we help lead them to Jesus.
God’s message to all of us is a message of love and forgiveness – not hate.
I think back to that conversation and hope my daughter saw a little bit of Jesus in me.
….And Jesus asked…”But who do you say that I am?
I say you are Jesus, the God of Truth, the God of love and forgiveness.
Help all of us to remain faithful to your teachings in all that we say and do.