Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Image of the Father

Image of the Father

          My father died about four and a half years ago.  Although he did almost none of my formal religious education, my dad taught me a lot about God.  Most importantly, by the way he devoted himself to being an extraordinary father, he disposed me to know and love my Heavenly Father.
          I believe fathers are children’s first image of God.  Of course Mom is, too, but in a different way.  Whereas Mom introduces children to the immanence of God, Dad in some ways expresses His transcendence, perhaps the first concrete sign of the Father.  Certainly our current crisis of faith and our crisis of fatherhood are in many ways intertwined.
          I was blessed to grow up without such crises.  There was little my father spent more time on than his children, and I learned many lessons from him.  We spent many hours playing baseball, as that was my dream.  My dad deserves much of the credit for providing a slow, fat, uncoordinated kid the opportunity to play college baseball.  But despite the countless hours we spent playing baseball, a memory I still treasure often was the one time I remember playing football with him.
          It was a Saturday afternoon when I was about twelve.  Dad was in the kitchen eating lunch and reading the paper and I was in the backyard throwing a football to myself.  He must have heard me because he came out on the balcony to see what I was doing.  We had watched a lot of football together, but never really played.  But that day he asked me to throw the ball up to him on the balcony.  I did and for the next 20 minutes or so, he threw the ball down to me as I ran around the yard.
          All in all, it would seem a rather insignificant event, and my dad may have forgotten all about it.  But I never have.  All those hours playing baseball, my dad was helping me achieve a goal, sometimes he even had to drag me.  But that day he just wanted to play.
          Ephesians 3 tells us that it is the Fatherhood of God from which all paternity is named.  Fathers have a duty to be an image of God for their children, the God who delights in His children.
          Once when Jesus appeared to St. Faustina He told her one of the most amazing things I have ever heard.  He said, “Daughter, your heart is my Heaven.”  The heart of a creature the Heaven of the Creator of the universe?  How can it be?  How are we to believe that God so delights in us that He finds Heaven in our hearts?
          Well, I was able to believe it.  My dad, the man who started out with the title of superhero, found delight in me.  It was natural to believe that God would.
          Now I’m the dad; I’m the image.  So when I come home from work and my boys want to play a “rough fighting game” (tickle wrestling), or play ball, or go outside and chase each other in the grass, as tired as I may be at that moment, I have to remember that they need me to play, they need me to show them that their Father truly delights in His children.