20 June 2010

Fathers and Crosses

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – C – 20 June 2010 (Father’s Day)

Readings: Zech 12:10-11; Ps 63:2,3-4,5-6,8-9; Gal 3:26-29; Lk 9:18-24

Today we celebrate Fathers’ Day, and the Gospel talks about the way of the cross. Here are two themes that somehow connect with each other. Maybe because fatherhood is a natural way of the cross, or because for some families the cross they have to bear is a wayward father.

I. Who do you say that I am?

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus first asked His disciples “Who do people say that I am?” as a way of introducing His real question: “Who do you say that I am?”

After some time of being together, Jesus decides to do a process check. And once again, He takes the opportunity to inject a dose of revelation. “Who do you say that I am?” is both a question of identity and relationship.

Peter declares: “You are the Christ of God.” Jesus affirms that he is right, proceeds to teach what it means in the concrete, and then prompts us to ask ourselves the question: “Yes, Jesus is the Christ of God, but who is He to us?”

Gal 3,26 helps us answer: “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.” If we continue reading the succeeding verses (the entire Second reading), we would learn that we become children of the Father since we have been baptized in Christ, clothed with Christ and are one in Christ.

In short, He is our everything. We are His disciples. This should lead us to ask ourselves yet another set of questions:
a. What have I done for Christ?
b. What am I doing for Christ?
c. What ought I to do with Christ?

Jesus tells us precisely what we need to do for Him in Lk 9,23: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me”.

II. The Way of the Cross

Christ’s identity is integrally intertwined with His mission on the cross. Thus, our discipleship as well should be identified with our following the way of the cross.

1. The way of the cross is a counter-culture to the cult of the here and now.

It exposes the mind-sets of success at all cost, freedom without responsibility, and happiness without concern for others, as both shallow and sham. The way of the cross is also quite opposite to a kind of faith that shuns the discipline of “religion” in favor of an individualistic eclectic feel good spirituality in vogue nowadays.

It acknowledges the reality of toil and suffering, and proposes their redemptive quality. But it is not in any way negativistic for it points to the promise of joy and glory, the joy of the Lord’s presence and the glory of the resurrection. It presupposes God’s abiding love guiding, strengthening and rewarding those who choose to tread the way.

The way of the cross points us to the values of eternity and our capacity for transcendence.

2. The way of the cross is a counter-culture to the cult of the self.

Practically all sadness and fear, hatred and division in the world may be traced to one overarching cause: self-centeredness, the cult of the self. Whenever people cannot yet transcend their narrow self-interests or need for self-promotion, there cannot be justice and peace. When the devil tempts us, he appeals to our self-centeredness.

Christ has shown us how one selfless act can redeem humanity. The witness of the saints through the ages has been a consistent testament to the power of selfless love to change lives, indeed, the world.

III. Fathers and Crosses

Today, here and in many parts of the world, we celebrate Fathers’ Day. And the Gospel’s message on the cross provides a fitting context to the vocation of fathers everywhere.

To be a father necessitates the kind of selfless love that puts the needs of his children before himself. To be a father necessitates that one enjoys or endures (as the case maybe) not only the present moment but plans ahead for the future, a future that he knows too well he will no longer be part of.

To be a father means to take the risk of disappointments and disrespect, of worrying endlessly whether there is food on the table, whether there is enough funds to send the children to school or to take care of their health, and whatever it is that concerns them. For some it may also mean grieving over the loss of their children by death or distance.

On the other hand, there are also families who are burdened by problematic fathers: those who are barely present, those who care too much that their love stifle their children’s growth, those who would not forgive or understand, those who are simply bad role models, those who abuse, those who abandon. In these families, their fathers are the crosses they have to bear.

It is a noble thing to bravely endure hardships for the sake of our loved ones or survive experiences of suffering and pain. However, when we follow the way of the cross, our hardships and suffering are elevated to a higher stature: they become an offering, a sacrifice, just like Christ’s sacrifice of Himself. As such they attain a power to change us for the better, and transform the hearts of those around us.

This sacrifice of ours is not an offering in order to appease an angry Father wronged by our sins. But in Christ, it becomes united with God’s work of redeeming and sanctifying the world. Thus, in a kind of holy irony or twist of fate, we become part of the Father’s offering of love and grace to the world.

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