Between the first reading from the book of Job and the Gospel reading from St. Mark, God is shown to us as an all-powerful being. Job is reminded that God alone has the power to control the seas, setting their limits and controlling their waves. Likewise, St. Mark shows Our Lord commanding the stormy seas to be calmed. It would be easy to see God as the deep voice thundering from the Heavens, striking people down with lightning, much like Zeus, the king of the gods in the Greek mythology.
As we see in the second reading, this is not the relationship that our God wants to have with us. St. Paul reminds us that God is a father who loves us so deeply that He protects us from even the power of our own sins. The Father's love is so strong that He was willing to give His Son, who He loved above all things in Heaven and on Earth, to die for us that we might love Him in return. This is the total self-giving love that God the Father has for us.
Of course, today we are celebrating Fathers' Day, that day we set aside each year to remember and honor our earthly fathers. It's good that we do set aside a day for fatherhood, as I think it's important that we take time to celebrate our fathers. For many of us, this is a day to thank them for the love and commitment which they've shown to us throughout our lives.
Celebrating Fathers' Day is especially important in a culture in which fatherhood is increasingly seen as unnecessary. More and more children are being born out-of-wedlock, and fewer and fewer couples are entering into the marriage covenant, with the children being left with the mother when the relationship breaks apart. I recently heard a statistic that 85% of youths in prison came from single-parent families without a father in their lives. In some places, especially low-income, inner-city neighborhoods, children are seen as the woman's problem and the father is completely out of their lives.
This is not the example that we are given by our Heavenly Father of what fatherhood should look like. God our Father gives to us a complete and total love, a love that truly desires the best for us, even if we do not understand or agree with what that might look like. In the same way, earthly fathers are challenged to put their families over their own desires and wants. Fathers are called to teach their children, to show them right from wrong, and to give them an example of how to live their lives and treat others with respect. They are challenged to give of themselves so completely that they are even willing to give up their lives to protect and care for their children. This is the total, self-giving love which fathers are called to have for their children, a love which we celebrate today on Fathers' Day.
This year, we have a second fatherhood which we are asked to remember. On Friday, the feast of the Sacred Heart, Pope Benedict proclaimed the Year for Priests, a year of prayer for priests and celebration of the ministerial priesthood. Like Fathers' Day for our earthly, physical fathers, we are called during this special year to remember those priests who have truly shown the spiritual fatherhood that is the nature of the priesthood.
While most priests are not fathers by birth, all priests are called to be spiritual fathers, who give the same self-giving love to the people they have been called to serve. The focus of any priest should not be on his needs and desires, but on what is best for the parishioners that he's called to both serve and lead. Sometimes that service and leadership might lead to making decisions that aren't popular, but priests are still called to make those decisions on behalf of the parishioners.
Priests are also called to teach and preach the saving love of God and show the example of loving God and loving our neighbors. We're called to join in celebrating joyful occasions, and to be a source of comfort in times of sorrow. In short, we are called to be fathers. It's not a coincidence that the spiritual fatherhood and the earthly fatherhood have similar job descriptions. Both draw from the example of God our Father in Heaven.
As we celebrate both Fathers' Day and the Year for Priests, may we remember and pray for our fathers, both earthly and spiritual, and may those called to be fathers show to their families the self-giving love which God the Father has for all of us.
Edit: fixed grammatical "oops".