Saving A Child Saves a Father
A lost vision of Fatherhood
Our identity leads to our destiny. Who we are determines who we will become. The enemy knows this. The evil one understands that if we discover who we really are, we will become manifestations of God’s glory to our family and to the world around us. Our identity not only affects our personal destiny, but also has an effect on the world’s destiny. Society goes by way of the family and the family goes by way of the father. If you want to change the world, change the father. Our fatherly identity leads to the world’s destiny. But what is our identity? Whether we are single, married or priests, we are all called to be spiritual fathers. But it appears that over the last several generations we have inherited a lost vision of fatherhood. Many fathers have forgotten, or never learned what it means to father, how to father, or who we are actually fathering. Like a man who owns a field, unaware that under the earth’s surface lies a hidden treasure, many fathers are unaware of the riches and power of their fatherhood.
Spiritual Fatherhood vs. Biological Fatherhood
What is a father’s essence? What is his identity? A father has one of the most challenging jobs in the world: He is ordained by God to be an icon of the heavenly Father. St. Paul attests to this truth, “I bend my knee before the Father of heaven and earth from whom every father on earth derives its name. (Eph 3:15) You and I, we as fathers, are named and claimed by God the Father to be icons, that is, efficacious symbols of the Father, who have been given the great honor of transmitting the Father’s love, glory and power to this fallen world.
Fatherhood is not merely biological but spiritual. A man can plant his seed and leave the garden. We all know the consequences of such a decision: Children from fatherless homes are 5x more likely to commit suicide, and 35x more likely to run away from home. 85% of all youth in prisons come from fatherless homes. Researchers at Columbia University discovered that children who have a strained relationship with their fathers are 68% more likely to use drugs and alcohol, and engage in premarital sex. These statistics validate the truth that fatherhood is not merely biological but spiritual. Anyone can be a biological father, but it takes a real man to be a spiritual daddy. So how do we become spiritual daddys? How do we spiritually adopt our children?
The key to Spiritual Adoption: Receive one such child as Christ
Christ gives us the key to spiritual adoption: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” (Mt 18:15) Our Lord tells us that we must actively receive our children and claim them and care for them as though they are Christ. By truly receiving our children and investing ourselves in them—with the purpose of having them become noble, virtuous, and full of character—we receive them and Christ in them. Consider that God the Father chose a human father to be the father of His Son. St. Joseph spiritually adopted Jesus and doing so, he received Christ and the Father. So how did St. Joseph spiritually adopt Jesus? Joseph initiated Jesus into the faith. Joseph, according to the religious requirements of the Mosaic law, either presented Jesus to be circumcised or circumcised Jesus himself. This is important for many reasons. We all know that Jesus did for us what we could not do for ourselves—He fulfilled the law perfectly—even to death, dying on behalf of imperfect men as the perfect sacrifice for men. What man could not do for himself, Jesus as a man, did for man. Yet, Jesus, as a babe, was not capable of fulfilling the Old Covenant Law independently of man, for He was dependent upon a man to grant Him entrance into the Covenant.
Saving a Child saves a Father
Christ chose not to save man independently of man, but became a man, dependent upon a man, and with man, saved man. Jesus needed a man to help him fulfill the law of God, and this man was Joseph. Christ became dependent upon Joseph to initiate Jesus into the Jewish faith and to initiate Jesus’s self-offering. This also applies to each of us: our children are, for the most part, not saved independently of us, but rather, their salvation—to a great extent—depends upon us.
The salvation of every earthly father came through the Son of the eternal father, and this Son saved man in conjunction with his earthly father. This indicates that a father’s salvation is brought about in some manner by his own child, and that a child’s salvation is brought about, in some manner by his own father. Our children, most often will not be saved independently of us, and because it is our duty to be icons of God the Father, we most often will not be saved independently of our children. Our children, regardless of their age, need us to spiritually adopt them. When our children are young, we must do for them what they cannot do for themselves, by teaching them to love God, live for God, and give for God—for He alone can give us true joy, satisfaction and fulfillment. When our children are older, we continue to love them as the Father loves them. Perhaps we call them simply to tell them we love them, or demonstrate our interest in their lives by calling them and stopping by and asking them about their life. Perhaps we pray for them and sacrifice for them that they may return to their faith, or become a stronger Christians. Perhaps we ask them to forgive us for the times we have failed to be icons of God the Father. This act alone has the potential to transmit God the Father’s love in ways beyond human understanding. Regardless, it is never too late to spiritually adopt our children and transmit God the Father’s love to them.
Receive The Child as Christ and the Child will be more likely to receive Christ
Grace builds upon nature. If we do little with our natural capacity and powers, little will be graced. Without Christ’s wine it is only water, and without water there is no wine. Without our works there is no grace built upon those works. God the father needs you to father because your children need the heavenly Father. We are called to become true fathers by spiritually adopting our children. If we receive our children as Christ, our children will be more likely to receive Christ. I recently heard the account of a Russian king who conducted an experiment with the desire of knowing what language a child would speak if the child was never spoken to. Gathering infants from across his kingdom, he had caretakers bathe and feed the children, but never speak to them, look them in the eyes and love on them. The result: all of the children died. Why? Because they did not receive the word of love.
Love Covers a multitude of Sins
God is the Word, the Word of love, and love covers a multitude of sins—love gives life. We all fall short in loving our children, but if we can muster enough courage, overcome our fear of failure, and begin to intentionally speak love, encouragement and support into our children—by pointing out their gifts, thanking them for being our children, telling them that they are a gift to this world, and showing them that we love them simply because they are who they are—we will be transmitting the Word of love, which covers many of our failings. It is important to tell our children often, “no matter what you do, good or bad, I will always love you.” If you do something terrible, I may be disappointed in you. If you do something great, I may be proud of you. But, in the end, regardless of either, I will always love you, simply because you are mine.” Gentlemen, this is how God feels about each and every one of you. Your failings, or your successes do not make Him love you less or more—He simply loves you because you are His. As our Father has spiritually adopted each of us, as St. Joseph spiritually adopted Jesus, let us also spiritually adopt our children by sharing the Word, His truth, His love, His teachings with our children, and doing do, we will receive the Word in our children. Be not afraid. Love covers a multitude of sins.