June 26, 2009

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Jesus shows fathers the Father

Sean GallagherSome of you might recall that my wife, Cindy, and I have been expecting the birth of our fourth child for several months.

That waiting came to a quick end on June 7, Trinity Sunday, as our newest child, Philip Anthony, was born at 11:57 p.m. I say quick because Cindy only started feeling contractions at around 9:45 p.m. We arrived at our hospital about 40 minutes before Philip was born.

Thanks be to God, Cindy and Philip are doing well. I’m also grateful to my parents and in-laws who cared for Michael, Raphael and Victor—the rest of our troop of boys—in the days after Philip’s birth.

Philip was named in honor of my mother’s family. Her maiden name was Phillips. But his name was appropriate for Trinity Sunday since, as we read in St. John’s account of the Last Supper, that Apostle helped bring about the revelation of the Trinity.

While Jesus was telling his disciples about his relationship with the Father and Holy Spirit, Philip said, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us” (Jn 14:8).

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

This reply shows the perfect communion between the Father and the Son that is a part of the Trinity.

God being Father must have been a mystery to Philip. In the time before Jesus, the people of Israel experienced God as having qualities like a father—he provided for them and was merciful to them—but not as a Father in his inmost being.

It is only with the coming of Jesus that God is fully revealed to us as Father. And when, according to Jesus’ reply to Philip, we ponder our Lord’s words and deeds, we begin to see the Father more clearly.

Nurturing a deep relationship with God as our Father, realizing more fully that we are his children and making this an active part of our life of faith, can be a beautiful thing for us and can bear fruit in our lives.

We will live our faith more as spiritual children, trusting confidently that our Father will provide for our needs, just as our little Philip instinctively trusts Cindy and me.

We will also develop a deep respect for everyone around us—even those who annoy us—because they, too, are sons and daughters of God our Father.

And, at least for us fathers, developing a good relationship with the Father can motivate us to be more like him in our relationship with our children.

Granted, this is a very hard task. But Jesus provides us both with a model of how to do it (“Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”) and the grace to make it a reality.

Jesus showed us the providence of our Father in multiplying the loaves and fishes. He showed us the Father’s mercy by forgiving sins and healing the sick. And, ultimately, he showed us the Father’s infinite love for us by his death and resurrection.

Now our Lord knows that I am not a miracle man and have failed many times in my seven years to even try to live up to the example of God the Father given to me through Jesus.

But, of course, our Father is always merciful and forgiving, giving me his grace to begin again. Thank you, Father, for giving me a new start with Philip.

And thank you, Father, for helping me give him a good start in the waters of baptism in which he became your adopted son on June 21, Father’s Day.†

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