Word Magazine June 1979 Page 22
Homily by Father James C. Meena
On Pentecost Sunday, we sometimes experience the coincidence of celebrating a secular holiday, Father’s Day, which seems to have taken on a greater degree of significance than this Feast, which is probably the second most important day in the life of the Church, the day in which the Holy Spirit was imparted to the Apostles, the day in which the Church was actually born. This is not the only time that this sort of coincidence occurs, nor is it the only time when the significance of the spiritual feast is dimmed by the festivities of the secular holiday. While I suppose this is natural in a secular society such as ours, I don’t think that we as Christians should consider it as being acceptable. (Father’s Day this year is one week after Pentecost.)
Anyone who has ever been involved in a program of self-improvement of any kind, whatever the objective might be, knows that the moment one lets down in one’s disciplines the goal objective is lost. If you are trying to lose weight, the minute you cheat on your diet you know that the diet is lost and you’ll never lose the weight that you wanted to lose. If you are trying to strengthen your body through exercise you know that the moment you give up your regular routine, you’ve broken the cycle and once that cycle is broken it’s very difficult for you to get back into it and your discipline is lost, and your goal is lost as well.
Well, that seems to be what has happened to us in the Church. Because we have let down on our spiritual exercises, the whole objective and purpose of our being Christian is lost. We really don’t pray enough. Certainly we don’t worship as often as we should nor as fervently. We come to the Sacrament of Penance like someone walking through a public shower, never once confessing our sins openly to God and to our spiritual Father, as though there was some magic taking place there, that if we hide our sins we can somehow be forgiven, and we know better than that. And while we try to do good works on the surface, more often than not what we do is a token exercise of free will giving.
When the Church calls on us to come and pray on Pentecost, or on Ascension which is ten days before, our response is the response of the runner who has given up the race. We want to get into good shape, we want to be spiritually strong, we want to be able to run many miles, we want to be worthy in the sight of our God, but we’re not willing to do the work that needs to be done for us to attain to that. Too many of us find excuses for not praying, for not worshipping, for not seeking and doing the will of our Father and for not growing spiritually.
Now if we were to look for someone upon whom to place the primary onus for this problem, I think that I would need to lay the problem directly in the laps of the father of each family because, there are burdens of responsibility set on the shoulders of the Christian father by God himself, that should the father not live up to these responsibilities, the family is not going to grow in spirit as it needs to grow. When the family is spiritually strong society is spiritually strong and conversely, when the family begins falling apart around the edges society begins to crumble rapidly as we see our beloved American society crumbling as we watch helplessly, wondering what we can do to stop it.
Well fathers, you can do a lot if you are willing to set the pace for your families. Are you willing to lead them in prayer or are you too embarrassed to open a bible with them and to discuss spiritual texts, or the scripture lessons that were read to you in Church or to try to impart to your children the real meaning of Scripture to their lives? Some parents I know are too embarrassed to even talk about God or Christ with their children except to use God and Christ as an expletive when they become angry or upset with them. I see many children who don’t even know the basic rudiments of how to make the Sign of the Cross or recite the Our Father, something that should be taught to them at home. Seldom do they pray at night and if they do, their prayers are jingoistic, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Nothing Orthodox about their prayers, nothing really meaningful and it is the father who must insist upon this in his household. But if the father is empty, how can he complete the family? It is only when the father himself strives to grow in every area of his personality that the family has the strong leadership that it needs for its own spiritual growth. Weak leaders make weak followers. Strong leaders inspire and strengthen their followers and the father has got to be a strong leader for his family.
Many years ago somebody wrote a song for mother, spelling out the word M-O-T-H-E-R and putting a meaning behind every letter, “M is for the million things,” etc. Nobody I know of has ever written a song to poor old Dad, so I have written one. “F” is for faithful friend, for if a father is not a faithful friend to his children they will never be able to give true friendship to any other man. “A” is for adviser, the advisor of wisdom, the advisor of the word of God, the advisor who inspires and who instills confidence. “T” is for tolerant but tough, putting up with his children’s faults but not with their nonsense. “H” is for honest and holy and any man who is ashamed of being holy will never be truly honest. “E” is for erudite, that’s a fancy word, but erudite means one who learns, who is constantly in the process of growing intellectually and spiritually, therefore becoming better equipped to teach, and “R” (I looked for a long time for a word to apply to the letter R, and I think I have found the perfect word.) “R” is f or refined. Now that’s a word you usually attribute to sugar or to flour and it means “made free from impurities.” Put them all together they spell F-A-T-H.E-R, a man of integrity, of strength, a dependable leader, a holy teacher, a humble learner, a faithful friend.