With a Father’s Heart

– Fourth Week of Advent –

Then they began motioning to [Zechariah] to find out what name he wanted to give [his son]. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. [Luke 1:62-63]

On the cusp of Christmas, today’s reading tells of the birth, circumcision and naming of John the Baptist. Zechariah confirms the name of his firstborn as John and in that instant, his tongue is freed and he speaks in praise of God.

In the Christmas narratives we are given two fathers, Joseph and Zechariah, who, despite some misgivings, both demonstrate an openness to God’s mysterious plan of salvation. Neither man initially appreciates the significance of what he has been invited to do. I would suggest that this is the case for all fathers.

In his recent Apostolic Letter ‘With A Father’s Heart’, Pope Francis identifies some of the qualities of St. Joseph. He is a beloved, tender, loving, obedient, accepting, creatively courageous, and hardworking father; an earthly counterpart to Jesus’ heavenly Father. Pope Francis continues: ‘Fathers are not born, but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child’ (Patris Corde, 7). It is in their care of Jesus and John that Joseph and Zechariah respectively exercise their fatherhood.

In today’s world, many children are bereft of such fatherly care; they experience rejection and loss of identity. This happens where the man is absent or his parenting is domineering, aggressive, overly protective or inattentive. This is often the case because a man’s own experience of being fathered has been deficient. How can we cultivate the kindness, generosity, courage and goodness of fathers, who allow their children to learn, grow and mature to become their own person? ‘Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of a father [and mother] who respects that child’s freedom’ (Patris Corde, 7).

May St. Joseph and Zechariah be a source of inspiration for all those fathers who desire to protect, care for, teach, respect and nurture the children entrusted to them.   


By Mike Humphrys

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