I’ve been contemplating the mystery of the Trinity a lot lately, of the triune nature of God. I was planning to talk about God the Father this month when, coincidentally, I was listening to Fr. DiTomo’s homily from this last Sunday, “The Trinity for Dummies” in which he talked about ‘how do we speak about the Trinity in a way we aren’t committing heresy?’ So in the interest of not committing heresy, I’ll just share some of my own perspectives on how I’m understanding God the Father, and why maybe it matters here with Father’s Day just around the corner.
I don’t know if you’re like me, but I have lately found myself in church, or alone in prayer, trying to decide which aspect of God to pray to: the Father? The Son? The Holy Spirit? Does it depend on what I’m praying about, what I’m asking for, what I want to talk about? Like “for intercession, press 1. For examination of conscience, press 2. For information on planning, press 3.”
That’s kind of goofy, isn’t it?
I can always just pray to God in general, cover my bases, right? I could, but I figure our faith brings us acknowledgement of the triune
God for a reason. I mean, it must matter, right? So then I find it fascinating to contemplate.
So, then…how best to understand God the Father? I guess I gained great insight on that as I reflected on my own journey of fatherhood. You may or may not be a father, but if you are, much of this will sound familiar, I suspect. Probably even if you aren’t, but you reflect back on your own dad, or fathers you know, this will resonate with you.
So how might we think about an earthly father to understand God the Father?
• A good father loves His children no matter what. He may get mad at them, he may have to punish them, but it always comes from love.
• A good father tries His best to teach his children right from wrong. He knows they won’t always get it right, but he wants to make sure they have the tools to tell right from wrong, so they have a better chance of making good choices.
• A good father conceives of a plan for each of His children for success in life. He bases it on who they uniquely are, because He
knows every one of His children is different (regardless of if you raise them the same, they just come out different, don’t they?). He knows, from His experience and wisdom, what will be more likely to set them up for success than not, and he tries to guide them into making the choices that align with His plan, BUT…
• A good Father also gives His children the opportunity to make their own choices. He could force them into following His plan to the letter, but His children are each their own person, and if he doesn’t give them that freedom, then the successes they might experience would be hollow. It would be Him living vicariously through them, not them living their life. AND
• A good father always forgives His children when they mess up. He knows it’s inevitable that they’ll make mistakes, but all he asks is that they be honest with Him, tell Him the truth, and be sorry, and all is forgiven. He forgives them, forgets their mistakes, rejoices with them, and sends them on their way again.
• A good father always takes care of his children, and answers their requests, but not necessarily by giving the children what they ask for. He knows what’s best for them, and as long as
they’re trying to be good children, he’ll tip the scales in their favor (in ways the children may or may not ever realize!).
• A good Father will stay in the background, letting His children take the spotlight. He’ll do all the thankless work behind the scenes, but he won’t step in front of them, because at the end of the day, seeing His children persevere and succeed will bring Him more joy than His own successes ever could.
• Finally, a good Father is always a call away. Even if He’s not with His children in person, He’s always willing to answer a call, at any hour of the day or night. Whether it’s just to listen, or to offer advice, or maybe to suggest a corrective course of action…He will ALWAYS pick up the line when one of His children calls…and He loves when they call.
• So, give your heavenly Father a Happy Father’s Day this year by maybe doing the following:
o Give Him a ring!
o Thank Him for making a plan for you, but trusting you with the freedom to make your own choices
o Thank Him for teaching you what you need to know about right and wrong
o Thank Him for the times when maybe He’s been a little tough on you, but for your own good
o Tell Him you love Him
o Thank Him for loving you, because He does
o Thank Him for never giving up on you, no matter what…because He never will.
Finally, I want to share a brief poem with you this Father’s Day week. It was written by my sister-in-law in 1995, when my dad passed away just a month before Father’s Day. I wanted to share it with you both as a reminder of the legacy a good father can leave for his family, and maybe as an inspiration for us fathers to strive even harder to do just that, or to appreciate our own fathers just a little bit more.
It sits alone, quietly yet prominently placed in the center of the hustle and bustle of the family room.
The aristocratic sheen of the burgundy leather has given way to dull wrinkles worn with comfort, worry and love.
The sunken cushions sweetly echo verses of humorous old tunes; they lumpily heave with tales of comrades lost in the war, and they are deeply creased with sage advice from a man of good intentions.
The understated, smooth arms of the chair remain strong and dignified - symbols of the humble man they supported in good and bad days gone by.
The smooth, tarnished brass rivets remain secure and intact. Abiding protectors of heartfelt family traditions, witty anecdotes and untold sorrows.
Tho its master has passed, the chair remains a constant reminder of a simple man who loved people. A man who believed the worth of a person came from the inside - giving no regard to titles, social standing, or wealth.
Like a candle in the darkness, the chair beckons us to come forth, sit, and think a while.
As its soft leather embrace warms our skin, the chair sadly yet lovingly imparts the wit and wisdom of a man we called "Dad."
For this, we thank you, old chair.
Lecturer, KofC Council #11666
June 14, 2022
Today we heard the beautiful passage on love from St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. You’ll often hear this reading at weddings.
Ironically, Paul didn’t have marriage in mind when he wrote those words.
No, he was writing to a group of people who were tearing each other apart.
In this case, it was the Christian community within Corinth, a city in southern Greece. Corinth was once a major city along the Mediterranean coast. As many as 700,000 people may have lived in Corinth when Paul was there.
Paul founded the community in Corinth around 51 or 52 AD, living there for about 18 months. He poured himself out for the community, teaching them the gospel, leading them in worship, and showing them how to live like Christ.
Then he moved on to found Christian communities elsewhere … and that’s when the trouble started in Corinth.
The rich and powerful began mistreating the poor and powerless, even at Mass.
The Corinthians started to define themselves by their differences rather than what they had in common. In particular, some people thought they were better than others because of certain spiritual gifts they had received, such as knowledge, or speaking skills, or prophecy. And they were using those gifts for their own benefit, rather than to serve the community.
Some in the community were eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. And sexual immorality was rampant.
There were other issues … but you get the picture. They were calling themselves Christians … but weren’t acting like it.
And so, Paul is very critical of his old friends. They were spiritually immature and needed to grow up. He didn’t dispute that they had received spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit. But they had overlooked the greatest spiritual gift of all – which is available to everyone – and that is love.
Love is the more excellent way. Prophecies, tongues and knowledge have limits, but love does not.
Any gift without love is really nothing. It’s an illusion. Even almsgiving and martyrdom are nothing without love.
Paul’s message to the Corinthians is this: The only way to heal their wounds and end the divisions among them is through love.
Was his message effective? We have two signs that it was. First, in his letter to the Romans some years later, Paul mentions a major sticking point between him and the Corinthians as being solved. And second, and most importantly, the Corinthians chose to preserve his letters, which at times were quite critical of them. If Paul’s message didn’t have an impact, why else would they keep the letters?
Love was the answer then, and love is the answer today.
For the past two years, we’ve endured a pandemic that has fractured our country. Most of us know someone who died from COVID, and many of us have experienced COVID ourselves.
We’re tired, frustrated, angry. We’ve just had it.
We’ve lost faith in our institutions. We don’t know who to trust any more. The truth seems to be up for grabs. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who knows?
Disagreement has now become tantamount to an act of violence – and has actually led to violence. If you don’t agree with me, you’re my enemy.
We see that mindset in our gospel reading.
Jesus’ own people turned on him after he told them something they didn't want to hear. They were outraged that he would show love and mercy toward the Gentiles, people they considered inferior.
We’ve seen this kind of attitude play out during the pandemic. People have been called “cowards” or “Nazis” or “science-deniers” or “tyrants.” Some have even taken great satisfaction in seeing someone they disagree with contract COVID – the feeling that, “Well, they had it coming to them.”
The fact is, no one has gotten everything right over the last two years. We’ve all been wrong about something at some point. In time, we'll have a clearer view of who was right and who was wrong … what worked, and what didn’t.
That’s for the future. For now, there are wounds to be healed.
The only way to repair the damage is through love. But are we willing to love those we disagreed with, sometimes vehemently? Because choosing to love means addressing some difficult questions:
Are we willing to forgive those whose decisions hurt us or someone close to us? If our decisions ended up hurting others, are we willing to apologize?
Can we be patient and kind to those who called us names and accused us of being irresponsible? What if we’re the one who sent nasty emails or snapped at someone?
Will we be able to resist the temptation to gloat over those who were wrong? Will we be willing to admit where we were wrong?
We can’t do any of these things without the Lord’s help, because He is the source of love and mercy.
Archbishop Fulton Sheen said there are certain things that we have within us, that once they’re given out, are never meant to be taken back.
One is the air we breathe. If we take that air back into ourselves, it poisons us.
Love is another. When love is breathed out to another human heart, it is never meant to be taken back. If that love's taken back, it also will poison us.
In our first reading, we heard the words of Jeremiah, who was a reluctant prophet. He was a quiet, peaceful man who didn’t want to stir up trouble. God reminded Jeremiah that he would not be alone in the face of opposition. God was with him.
God is with us, too.
Our country is broken and needs healing. Pointing fingers and angry words aren’t the answer, even though it’s easier. God is asking us to set aside our anger and frustration.
Let us lead with love. This is the more excellent way.
This is the only way.
July 2021 Lecturer Talk - Faith, Fellowship & Friendship - A discussion on the vision and core values guiding us forward today and the near future. What does it mean for the council, and what does it mean for you?
Watch it here: https://youtu.be/UWjLIsFcfBw
September (or August) 2021 Lecturer Talk - Time Frames - How do you approach a new opportunity, a new experience? Do you set boundaries, or not…and should you? What does a snapshot of our lives look like today, and what does it tell us?
Watch it here: https://youtu.be/jKgWoax6sLg
October 2021 Lecturer Talk - Happy Warriors - Even the most noble of endeavors, or the most admirable of intentions, can be toppled with just a slight nudge. What might consistently be the cause of this, and what can we do about it?
Watch it here: https://youtu.be/BJo33Ikfd-E
I had planned to present tonight the reflections I had on the Christmas season. But the events of the past two months, culminating in the events of the past week have pushed their way to the forefront, whether we like it or not.
I fear tonight that we are at the most volatile, divided time in our country since at least the 1960’s…and perhaps, dare I say, since 1860. In a Rasmussen poll released just today (1200 respondents), fully 25% of respondents feel that the country should split into two nations…red states, and blue states. But we don’t even need that poll to know, instinctively, how divided, entrenched, Americans are against each other right now. And I fear things will get worse before they get better.
For while this nation has weathered many crises, many threats from without, this is more dangerous…because it’s threats from within. And it’s coming from all sides…from the Rs, the Ds…the radical Right, the radical Left. The moderate middle even seems to be picking sides. People’s voices are being silenced. They’re all shouting each other down, cancelling each other out. We’re unfriending each other on social media, saying things on Twitter, or Facebook that we thought we’d NEVER say to each other face-to-face, although we’re starting to see that too. We’re categorizing, compartmentalizing, ostracizing and even dehumanizing those who don’t believe the way we do. We’re ascribing the malicious or bad behaviors of our political leaders or their followers to those we know personally, whom we think follow that same policy, or party…and we’re dehumanizing each other in the process. Nobody is listening to each other any more.
This is not the America I believe we know and love. It seems that we’re allowing the essential elements of what makes the United States so special among the nations of the world throughout history to slip away…and maybe not even realizing it. But we can feel it. There are forces active in our country today that are looking to tear all of us apart. And if I’m right…and I pray that I am not…this will arrive on our front doors, in this very community, perhaps soon.
Let me share something I heard today. “Life this side of heaven yes, can be hard. Freedom, true freedom that comes only from and with obedience to Divine Providence…that is even harder. There’s a reason that we are the longest ongoing experiment in Liberty in the history of humanity. However, our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people and we’ve lost our way as a country on both fronts.”
So what do we do?
We do only what we can. It has to start, for each of us, with ourselves. So tonight, I’m calling on us as brothers to lead the way in our community to heal and reconcile in this time of turmoil. Specifically, I call on my fellow 4th degree Knights to lead in this effort. We need to remind ourselves that the principle of the degree to which we took an obligation isn’t regalia, or a uniform. It’s not standing honor guard. It is PATRIOTISM.
If you research that word, you’ll find many different definitions, both positive and negative. But I suggest we take our current situation as a call to gain, or regain, a deeper understanding of the principles and values of American patriotism, those upon which our founding fathers based our Constitution…that sacred document that our veterans among us took an oath to support and defend. We knights stand at the pivotal intersection of our Catholic Faith and our American Exceptionalism. And I believe we are called to not only acquire a deeper understanding and appreciation of both, but to make it manifest in our community and the larger world through our acts of charity, working together visibly displaying our brotherhood and unity, despite our own political differences.
Gentlemen, we are knights. Knights are noble and chivalrous. They stand as beacons to those around them; examplars of what is good and true. So in this time of turmoil, I pray and exhort us all to be true knights. Put on the armor of God, band together, and with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence…make manifest our Faith and true Patriotism to our community and our world.
Lecturer, KofC Council #11666
January 12, 2021
This new documentary explores the life, legacy and impact of Father Michael McGivney, apostle of spiritual brotherhood and unity, who founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. Watch the full McGivney documentary on the Supreme Knights of Columbus YouTube channel!