So you never took a course to become a parent?

Proclaim Sermons
Homily: Fathers Day
June 18, 2023
Reproduced with Permission
Proclaim Sermons

Summary: Many of the people in early North America taught their sons to become warriors. It was apparently a part of sheer survival. Somehow, modern North American parents have adopted that pattern - not out of necessity or survival - but as a way of life. That is not God's plan for parenting or for living or for the values we pass on to our children. God's word talks the language of mercy and gentleness. It's the same model we see lived out in the life of Jesus Christ. It's not an option for those who follow Christ. It is a way of life that God has promised to bless - for families, for parents, and for the children they nurture and bless in Our Lord's name.

The tribes of early North America used to train their sons to be what they called "Braves." Once they achieved that rank, they would be acknowledged as fully-trained warriors. Every boy dreamt of the day when he would be recognized by his tribe as a "BRAVE." The training was long and difficult, and the last and most difficult step the boy had to pass was called the "vigil."

Let me describe the vigil. That was the day when the father led his young son deep into the forest. The two of them followed familiar paths, until they came to a region far enough way to be strange, new, and unfamiliar to the boy. When the sun began to set, father and son shared a meal, but then, as soon as darkness set in, the father said "goodbye" to the boy, let him alone in the darkness, and disappeared into the forest. He left the boy alone to spend the night in the dark, strange forest.

The night must have seemed like one-hundred hours to the lad, but he had to endure it - without "flinching" - if he hoped to become a "Brave."

When dawn finally broke, the frightened boy discovered that he had not been alone after all. For, when the dawn broke, there, in the pale morning light, stood his father. Unbeknownst to the lad, his father had shared the vigil and kept watch just a few yards away in the seclusion of the darkness.

I suspect you could draw any number of lessons from this story, but I chose to share it to help us realize that every culture in the history of humanity has been aware of how values and beliefs are passed on.

The Bible states it clearly in many places in the Old Testament: "Thou shalt teach these things unto your children and your children's children ..." In 2 Timothy we read of the passing on of the faith: "I remember the sincere faith you have, the kind of faith your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice had. I am sure that you have it, also ..."

It's clear and simple; in cultures and in the scriptures: values and beliefs are passed on within families! Parents pass them on to their children! That's been God's plan through the ages.

However, as enlightened and sophisticated as we are in present-day North America, I wonder, sometimes, if we are not much like the early tribes of North America when it comes to passing on values. They apparently had to do it for mere survival. We do it out of choice when it seems that we want our children to grow up being "Braves."

When the Indian child said, "I want to be like my daddy," it meant to be brave, courageous, strong, and never admit to fear or anxiety or especially weakness ... under any circumstances.

I'll never forget seeing the play by Arthur Miller, "The Death of a Salesman." It's probably been fifteen years now, but I still remember the point of it. It is about a man who spent most of his life and all of his fatherhood role-modeling what he felt his boys ought to be and what they ought to aspire to make of themselves. The dad laughed uproariously - especially when he was embarrassed - fake and false from the toes, but perhaps his daddy taught him that "braves" are hearty laughers and the life of the party. He never cried or said "ouch" when he hurt or his heart was wounded. He spent money to impress his teenagers with things he couldn't really afford, and then privately got ulcers trying to pay the bills. He pulled out the appropriate mask whenever he became frightened, felt alone or inadequate. The last scene of the play is at the cemetery, with his widow and two sons, now well into their twenties ... all three of them sad and weeping. One son said, "I loved dad, but his problem was he never knew who he was." The other son added, "I knew! I knew! and I could have loved him for who he was ..."

The quality of mercy and honesty

Folks, the Bible rejects this way of thinking. St. Paul rejects it ("Love is patient, kind ... and gentle"). Jesus Christ will have nothing to do with it as a pattern for fatherhood, and in fact, as a model for being a Christian ... period!. Jesus said that if you are a child of the most high God, if you would be like your Father who is in heaven, then, "... be merciful, just as your Father in heaven is merciful ..."

Jesus never said that we were to raise, to be role models, for brave, young warriors. The greatest compliment one can pay any role model, mother, father, friend, grandparent, teacher (yes, even the boss!) is to be merciful, compassionate, and caring.

George Eastman, the talented inventor and founder of Eastman-Kodak Company, often stated that he never set out to become rich. Nor was it specifically his intent to promote photography.

Eastman lost his father while he was still young, and he watched his mother scrape financially to provide the bare essentials for George and his two sisters. Memories of his mother mopping the floors and washing clothes for other people haunted George like a bad dream throughout his life.

Consequently, he vowed to make enough money so that his mother would never have to work again. Actually, he himself made millions, and he revolutionized photography - but his real goal was to make a comfortable living for his mother.

That is a quality of mercy and compassion our blessed Lord modeled and promised He would bless! In our world of Rolex watches and Mercedes and Flat Screens in every bedroom - upward mobility - these virtues of Jesus seem so far from the realities of the competitive lives most of us are trapped into living out. But the word and promise of Jesus and our Heavenly Father stand strong and clear about the values we model and embrace.

If any person ever experienced the reality of the presence of God in his life, it was St. Paul. He was literally blinded by the awesome reality of the glory of God in his Christian walk and journey.

As he writes to other Christians in his New Testament letters, how does he introduce this Father-God he knows so intimately? What is he like to Paul?

To the church in Corinth, he writes, "Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father..."

To the Romans he introduces God as the Father from whom flows, " grace, mercy, and peace."

From all of the letters Paul wrote to God's children, in all of them, he describes the nature of their heavenly Father with these same, descriptive words.

That is the pattern for fathering, mothering, grand-parenting - not just to tell and to teach and to show, but to be something to them - on a daily breakfast to bedtime basis.

That is a challenge above all challenges. But do you understand the invitation our Lord is extending here? Hear it? Take it into your inner being and soul. When we join him in being merciful, he says, "You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the most high God. For he is good to the ungrateful and to the wicked."

That means God forgives and empowers us even when we fail! All of us have things we have to forgive our parents for. The comfort of the Christian faith is that God lifts us up when we fail as parents, and our Father-God forgives our failures as parents. That's what it means to have a savior.


There is a delightful story about a man shopping in a clothing store. He picked up a pair of socks. The label said, "Shrink resistant." The man asked the clerk what "Shrink resistant" meant.

The clerk answered, "It means the socks will shrink, but they don't want to."

Isn't that what it's like to be fathers? Mothers? Teachers? Best friends? ...intimates of any nature to another human being we are in close relationship to? How we act; how we respond; what we do under moments of family tension; how we conduct ourselves when the voices raise and the differences become heated? It's like that in most families. After it's all over many children could often look at father's conduct and say, "Dad 'shrunk', but he really didn't want to!"

Fathers have a Savior! So do moms and children! That is what it means to have a Savior and to live in forgiveness. Our Lord says, "I will remember your sins no more!" We've got to say and do and live that as families. Families have a Savior, too!

The whole matter and pattern of being merciful, just as our Father in heaven is merciful, is much more than just cultivating a personality trait, counting to three before you "bite back." It's more than taking a Dale Carnegie course or any self-help program. When the Lord lives in you, Paul says, "How very great is the power at work in us who believe ..." It is by the power and influence of our God ..."

When you translate that into your home, as a parent, it means that there are very few days you'd probably let Parent Magazine into your living room to take real life videos of what it's really like behind your closed drapes!!

But I'd invite the Savior in anytime! He's what keeps us a family, and helps us be more merciful and more God-like to each other. And, the bottom line is, Jesus Christ died for the sins of parents and children and families, too. When's the last time you said to someone in your family ... the family God placed you into ... "I'm sorry?"