Thoughts from Father Dan on Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day!

12th Sunday

            How appropriate that today we hear  our Gospel from the Sermon on the Mount! During this time of the corona pandemic and protests over racial inequality, we hear Jesus says to us: “You are worth more than an entire flock of sparrows.”

            At this time in the life of our country, what does that sentence mean to you? What goes on inside you when you hear these very comforting,  encouraging and challenging words of Jesus? Why is the Son of God become flesh telling us of how each of us appear in God’s eyes? God eyes which we know are colorblind?

            We all know the answers to these questions. Each one of us –every human being that ever existed—is precious in God’s sight. Jesus echoes what He has learned in listening to the prophet Isaiah through whom God says to His people, Israel: ’You are precious in my sight and I love you.” Or listen to Psalm 139 which Jesus prayed when He was at the synagogue with His family and townspeople: “O Lord, you search me and you know me, you know my resting and my rising, you discern my purpose from afar. …For it was you who created my being, knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank you for the wonder of my being.” The wonder of being a human person! So precious in this time of pandemic. So precious in time of racial tension!

Listen to how Paul puts this very same reality in the first chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing….In Him we have redemption through His blood…according the riches of His grace which God has lavished upon us.”

            Listen to that beautiful phrase: “the riches of his grace which God has lavished upon us.” God pouring His love out upon each of us through the gift of His Son, Jesus, and especially in the gift of Jesus giving His life for us to show us the depth of the Father’s love. The love of God manifested in the shedding of blood on the cross.

            Again, I ask—what does this all say to us? Today the Gospel is reminding us of our own worth in God’s eyes. If God so values and loves us, then how should we look upon ourselves? How are we to think of ourselves? God is reminding us of our own dignity and worth, that we are truly beloved sons and daughters of a loving Father/God. Good to remember on Father’s Day!

And because we are to have a sense of our own dignity and worth, so are we to think of every other human being on the face of the earth as also sharing in that dignity and worth. It well may be that some people do not live in accord with that dignity and worth, but that does not take away the reality of the sacredness of every human person. It is that worth, that dignity, that sacredness that is at the heart of all our Church’s social teaching. All deserve to be treated with respect whether unborn or dying, whether healthy or disabled, all men and women

whatever race, nationality, or creed. God has made us all in His image and likeness. How wonderful of God to look upon us all this way! How wonderful of God to want to share His life and love with us! For this we offer our prayer of thanks today.

Yes, thanks, but there is more, isn’t there? Our thanks for God’s gift of life must move into action. In this pandemic we have to make sure that we follow the advice of the medical community, masks and distance from each other. Why? Because in doing so we are respecting the life and love that God has given to each of us. We don’t want to bring harm to someone else by not following the protocol. Each life is precious and we need to respect that.

Yes, thanks, but there is more, isn’t there? Our respect for the dignity of every human being must be reflected in the society in which we live. We can not listen to the words of Jesus on the mount and then treat others differently because of the color of their skin or their speaking another language. As Fr. Bryan Massingale, an Afro American Theology Professor here at Fordham,  wrote earlier this month in NCR: “But only an invasion of divine love will shatter the small images of God that enable us to live undisturbed by the racism that benefits some and terrorizes so many.” God’s love for us encourages us to let go of our comfortable image of God and realize the greatness of God’s love that is beyond human imagination. May that kind of love find its way not only in our hearts but also into the very structures of our society.

Jesus words today in the Sermon on the Mount encourage us and give us hope for the future. If we are truly worth more than a whole flock of sparrows, if God looks upon each of us in love; then what trust and confidence we should have in God. No matter what happens to us, we know that God is with us—still loving us—still holding us in the palm of His hand. There may be suffering and pain as we go forward. Jeremiah reminds us of this in our first reading. Even in the face of terrible difficulties and even persecution, Jeremiah trusted that God

would deliver him. And God did! In the Psalms we pray as Jesus Himself prayed: “If I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear. You are there with your crook and your staff, with these you give me comfort.” (Ps 23) ‘I lift my eyes to the mountains: from where shall come my help? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 131)  And Jesus’ own cry on the cross: “Into your hands, Father, I commend my spirit.”  And the Father heard that prayer of trust and brought Jesus to the fullness of life in the Resurrection.

            It could be that some of you are personally walking in the valley of darkness. If so, know that a loving God is walking with you. For us all, we are very aware that at this time in our country we are all now walking through a valley of darkness. In these times of sadness, anger and confusion we want to recall that we are in the hands of God, that we can trust that this loving and forgiving God, this Father of compassion and mercy is with us in this dark hour. In Jesus the Father sends us His forgiveness and love.

Jesus’ words that “we are worth more that an entire flock of sparrows” say something special to all of us in the United States today.