Jesus seems to have had a true ‘Father’s Day’ moment in the gospel passage we heard at Sunday Mass this week.
Although we know him more traditionally as ‘Son’ than ‘Father’, what Dad among us would not recognize at least a glimmer of the paternal instinct in Jesus’ choices on this day – spending some time out on the boat, kicking back, taking a nap?
Frankly, the ‘kids’ didn’t seem to mind at all, giving him a little extra space on the vessel:
Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.
But the true ‘Dad’ moment is revealed only as the story unfolds. An unexpected storm blows in, and the nap is suddenly history:
They woke him and said to him,
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Now, I’m certainly no miracle-worker like Jesus. Still, I found myself empathizing just a bit with his reaction to the crisis:
[Jesus] woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!”
The wind ceased and there was great calm.
Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified?
It reminded me of the all the many times in the past 30+ years when the storms of life – large and small – have sent waves crashing over the bow for one or the other of my children. In their early years, the tempests were relatively easy to calm. Often, it took no more than a reassuring hug or a smile.
As they grew older, the squalls tended to pack more punch. Which, I suspect, is why it sometimes surprises me when I am roused into action these days. My children are all accomplished adults now, in many ways wiser than their old man. And yet, they call.
It’s gratifying, of course, to know they see me as someone they can depend on – even when I am less than confident in my own ability to offer them anything of value, a way to calm the present storm.
But there’s also this: The more I reflect, the more I realize that this instinct on their part is precisely the gift my children have always given me through the years. They see something in me that I don’t tend to see in myself – the chance to be a bit less self-centered, to be a bit more like Christ.
Indeed, without this gift – the precious gift of fatherhood – I don’t know how I could ever have begun to grow in the mystery and wisdom that St. Paul shares about Christ-consciousness:
…so that those who live might no longer live for themselves…
We are happiest, it seems to me, when we set this particular course in our lives – when we don’t allow our vessels to be overwhelmed by the waves of selfishness crashing all around.
Empty vessels: This is what the love of Christ impels us to become.
With each passing year, my appreciation deepens for the role my children played (and continue to play) in my own journey of kenosis.
I am blessed, indeed, to be a Dad.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.