June 15, 2014 click on left end of black bar to play-pause
June 15, 2014
Fr. George Smiga
We celebrate the feast of The Most Holy Trinity every year, but it does not always fall on Father’s Day. This year it does. And because it does and because we call the first person of the blessed Trinity Father, we might ask ourselves, “What can we learn about human fatherhood by reflecting on God the Father?”
Now this seems like a good idea, but it is quite risky and difficult. So you will have to work with me today, because the Holy Trinity is a mystery. It is the mystery of God, and we can never fully understand God. There are some true things that we can say about God: We can say that there is one God. We can say that this one God is three divine persons. But it is impossible to understand how God can be both one and three at the same time. Nevertheless, I still think that we can use some of the true things we believe about God the Father and apply them to human fatherhood. So here goes–stick with me.
We call the first person of the blessed Trinity “Father” because in a sense the Father is the source of the Trinity. We say that the Son, the second person of the blessed Trinity, proceeds from the Father. And we say that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the blessed Trinity, proceeds from the Father and the Son. “I get that,” you say. “That seems clear.” But here is where the mystery of the Trinity asserts itself. Because although we say that the Father is the source of the Trinity, at the same time we say that there never was a time when the Father was, and the Son and the Spirit were not. God is always God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, even though we say that the Father is the source of the Trinity. You see what I mean about the Holy Trinity? It is impossible to comprehend. But let’s push on, okay?
If we can say that the Father is the source of the Trinity even though there never was a time when the Father was and the Son and the Spirit were not, then we can say that there is in the Trinity a certain priority: God is Father. Yet at the same time, that priority is not the most important thing. The most important thing in the Trinity is the mutual love that is shared by Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So, in the Trinity then there is both a priority and a mutuality. But it is the mutuality that is primary.
Let’s apply this to human fatherhood. (We could apply it to human motherhood, too, but this is Father’s Day.) In human terms, the priority of human fatherhood is obvious. With our human fathers there was a time when our fathers were and we were not. Because of this priority in human terms, we always respect and honor our fathers. Life came to us through them. Indeed it is this honor and respect for fatherhood that most people believe we are celebrating today. We are honoring fathers because they have given life to us, both physical life and personal life. All this is fine and good, and we should always honor fathers because of their priority. But the mystery of the Trinity pushes us to another truth. It tells us that although we honor the priority of our fathers, the basic goal of our relationship with them should be mutuality. Even though we honor our fathers as the ones who gave us life, we should move toward the time when we can be equal with our fathers, when we can share a common life together. To put this in colloquial terms, we say that fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, should be able to become friends.
Now, when we look at this in human terms, that process obviously takes time. We cannot be mutual with our fathers while we are children. Then the father must take the primary role. But as we grow older, as we become adults, it becomes possible for us to see our fathers not simply as the ones who have given us life, but as equal to us as human beings, sharing common likes and dislikes, fears and dreams. In other words, we can begin to relate to our fathers as mutual sharers of a common life.
Now, of course, in many circumstances this mutuality with our fathers cannot be achieved. Our fathers may die too soon, or there can be obstacles or limitations that prevent us from attaining that kind of relationship. But in most of our relationships with our fathers, there are moments when mutuality becomes visible. There are moments when we recognize that this man is not simply the man who has given me life, but is a partner with me in a common life. Those moments of mutuality are important, because today’s feast tells us that every time we touch a note of mutuality with our fathers, we receive a glimpse of the very life of God.