Often, when a person is given a role, a job, or a duty that someone else — who has skill, talent, and great capability—previously had, someone will inevitably say to them, “You have some big shoes to fill.” You and I have experienced such moments in our own lives, when we have been asked to “step up” and be the man that others depend on. Presidents, quarterbacks, professors, owners of companies and the like have experienced the challenge of replacing someone of greatness to whom people will compare and rate them.
It is difficult enough to be compared to another human being, but it’s another thing entirely to be compared to the perfect, all-knowing, all-loving, all-giving, all-powerful God. And yet, Jesus audaciously challenges us and even desires us to make this comparison: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Mt 7:11).
Our Lord invites you to meditate upon the fact that there is a connection in the comparison: by comparing your fatherhood with God’s fatherhood you and your children will discover God’s fatherly goodness and be forever connected to Him. Great fathers connect the world to the greatest Father. But to become great fathers it is imperative that we understand what a father is, what his essence is, what constitutes his identity. The human father has perhaps one of the most challenging jobs in the world—he is divinely ordained to be an icon, a grace-transmitting symbol of God the Father. As Pope St. John Paul II said, the human father is called to relive and reveal the very fatherhood of God (see FC 25). Those are some infinite shoes to fill!
You are called to be a link between your children and God the Father. You are called to be the voice of the Father that your child cannot hear, the face of the Father that your child cannot see, the touch of the Father that your child cannot feel. The human father is the visible icon of the heavenly Father. This is not mere wishful thinking or pious idealism; it is the divine plan. Sacred Scripture and St. Paul the Apostle attest to this truth: “For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named” (Eph 3:14). This indicates that you as a human father are named and claimed in the image of the eternal Father. You are called to be a father on earth like the Father in heaven, to ensure that your children, who are on earth, can hear, see, and touch the Father in heaven—through you.
Remember, there exists a connection in the comparison, you are invited by Jesus to connect your limited desire for your children to receive good things with the heavenly Father’s unlimited, eternal, desire for our good. In other words, if we fathers want good things for our children, then God wants the best for His children. This is why your iconic fatherhood is not only important, but essential to God’s plan.
By meditating on the love we have for our own children and comparing it to the heavenly Father’s love for us, we make the discovery—the connection—that God profoundly loves, chooses, desires, and delights in us. When we begin to understand, believe, and receive the love of the Father, then we can give to our children the love we have been given.