Fathers who Provide

This year we are facing the unusual coincidence of Father’s Day and the solemn feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (a.k.a. Corpus Christi).

There is more of a connection between these two observances than might meet the eye. One of the main roles of a father is to provide for his family. For a Christian father, this takes on the added dimension of providing not just for basic physical needs (putting food on the table and keeping a roof over the heads, so to speak) but also their spiritual needs.

An evangelical author, Pastor Mark Driscoll, from the religion and spirituality website patheos.com, sums it up nicely in his piece. There he reviews four ways a good Christian father should serve as provider. I am adapting some of his points by adding my own Catholic perspective:

(1) providing for the spiritual needs of his children (including teaching them to pray, and not only to go to Mass, but to love and understand the Mass). It’s important here to note that this needs to be taught by example – the most effective way for a father to teach his son or daughter. The author notes that this duty can not be “farmed out” to a Sunday school teacher, youth group volunteer, or anyone else. These may help supplement the father’s mission but can’t replace it.

(2) Providing for the physical needs of his children. A father working to support his family is in so doing worshiping God. This goes all the way back to Genesis, the beginning of the Bible, where God commanded Adam, the first husband and father to “till and work the earth.”

(3) providing for the relational needs of his children. This can be realized in many ways, including keeping watch over the friendships his children engage in (for example, making sure his daughter is not dating a boy who will not treat her properly) and in demanding that his children respect their mother, so that they learn how to properly honor their parents and treat women with the dignity and respect that is their due.

(4) providing for the generational needs of his children. A father in many ways is the keeper of tradition in his family – that is, what is handed down in important life lessons.

You can read the whole article at https://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdriscoll/2017/08/4-ways-father-can-provider/ It is worth reflecting on, especially for you readers who are fathers. In providing the astonishing gift of the true Body and Blood of Christ, the Real Presence of Jesus the Son of God, in the saving sacrament, God Our Father in Heaven does parallel things in these four areas. That shouldn’t be surprising because all good human fatherhood is rooted in the goodness of God the Father.

First, the Eucharist is the ultimate spiritual food. It is truly the Bread from Heaven hinted at all the way back to the days of Moses, when God fed His people by raining down the manna in the desert. The saints through the ages have reminded us that as much as our body craves physical nourishment in our hunger, so our soul should crave to be united with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, because we can not live without Him. Generations upon generations of monks have lived lives of severe fasting to live out that point – so that they were sustained far more by the Lord Himself under the appearance of bread and wine than by their daily meals.

Second, we are reminded that, although it is possible to unite with the Lord in many ways (such as through prayer), He ordained it so that the most powerful and intimate union with Him comes in the form of a physical union of His body and ours. This accomplishes several things, including reminding us of the Incarnation – that God took on human flesh at Bethlehem so that He could save us, body and soul, from eternal damnation and separation from Him. It also reminds us that God is real – not just a thought, a wish, an ideal. As St. Thomas the Apostle put his finger in the wound marks of Christ crucified and risen, so we too encounter Jesus Christ physically in the Eucharist.

Third, we are reminded that all our relationships – both with God and our fellow men – are summed up in the Eucharist. That is, in receiving the Blessed Sacrament and sharing in the holy sacrifice of the Mass with proper belief, love and devotion, we are united with all the Catholic faithful on earth and joined to the heart of the mystery of the love of Father Son and Holy Spirit, drawn into those depths by the power of the gift.

Similarly, our reception of the Holy Eucharist unites us across generations. At the holy Mass, we are united not only with the “church militant” (the pilgrim church of those striving to get to Heaven) but also with the Church triumphant, those who are already united with the Blessed Trinity in Heaven – the Communion of Saints worshiping and adoring Him. We are sharing in the same timeless sacrament that fed countless of our ancestors from the beginning of the Church into union with God.

The story of the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham (Genesis 22) foretells God the Father calling His Son in obedience to offer Himself as a sacrifice, as the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world by His Cross and Resurrection. When Isaac asks his father where the sacrifice to God will come from, Abraham responds, “God will provide” (Deus providebit). It is in the Eucharist and the Sacred Body and Blood of Christ above all that we see that God is a Father who provides for all of the needs of His children.

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