Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers of St. Margaret of Scotland! Thanks for the love, care, and support you show your families and for the ways that you reflect the love of God the Father for all of us. May St. Joseph inspire you to love your families as he loved Mary and Jesus.
Father’s Day began in the United States in the early 20th century to complement Mother’s Day; it was first suggested by Sonora Smart Dodd in 1909 of Spokane, Washington. Her father, Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised six children. After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. Father’s Day did not catch on as quickly as Mother’s Day, but it was finally declared a United States national holiday in 1972. Around the world, especially in European and Latin American countries, Father’s Day is celebrated on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph.
Fathers and images of Fathers are prominent in our Catholic faith. Of course we call God our Father, as Jesus taught us. We call the Pope our Holy Father. And many of you call me Father. There are countless fathers in the Bible as well. Abraham is called our father in faith and is revered in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Abraham trusted God’s assurance that his children would become a great nation. The promise came at a point when he and his wife, Sarah, were elderly and childless. And yet Abraham believed that God could do what was foretold to him. He went forward in confidence that God could accomplish, through him, a benefit for all the world.
St. Joseph is an exemplary father in the Bible. He married Mary, despite the unusual circumstances of her pregnancy. He dared to be unconventional because he trusted that God was working through her and him. He was a righteous man who dared to take on the roles of husband and foster father. And as refugees from danger, after the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it is clear that he protected his family by going beyond what was familiar to find a safe haven. We can learn much about fatherhood from Joseph.
Another father that captures the imagination in the Bible is a man called Jairus. We read about him in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke. He was a man of importance whose daughter was dying and he came to Jesus, fell at his feet and begged Jesus to help his child. The actions of Jairus revealed his character. He trusted that God could help and it didn’t matter that he had wealth and prestige. He humbled himself for the sake of his daughter.
A final father from the Bible that is impressive is the one who had two sons, one of whom went astray. Jesus told us about this father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The father in the parable teaches his two sons powerful lessons of love: the one who went astray who discovered that his father’s care came to him even when he had run away from it and the other who struggled to understand such extravagant love in the face of his brother’s failures and his own fidelity. The father in the story, like God, never gave up on either of his children.
On Father’s Day we remember that we have been given a heritage of dedication and faithfulness from the fathers we encounter in the Bible and from those fathers who exemplify the best qualities of parenting, many of whom we know and are in our midst!