Faith and our Fathers
Archbishop José H. Gomez
This Sunday is Father’s Day, when again we celebrate the beautiful reality of fatherhood and the importance of our fathers and grandfathers in our lives. But we also realize that we’re living increasingly in a “fatherless” culture where many fathers are absent from their children’s lives. Almost half of all American children are now born to mothers who are not married to the child’s father. More than a third of our children aren’t being raised in the same home as their fathers. These trends are part of a broader skepticism in our society toward traditional ideas of the family and the human person.
There are strong forces at work that would have us reimagine and reengineer the basic meaning of human nature. They want us to believe that whether one is a man or a woman is just an “accident” of birth, and not intrinsic to who we really are. They want us to believe that motherhood, fatherhood, and marriage aren’t natural realities, but just arbitrary “social constructs.”
This drift in our society has deep pastoral implications for our religious communities and for the Church’s duty to evangelize, because the Gospel that we are called to live and proclaim is the good news of God’s “family plan”—for history and for each one of our lives.
There is a reason that the history told in Scripture begins with the marriage of the first man and woman and ends with the wedding of Jesus and his bride, the Church, at the end of time. In salvation history, the human family proves time and again to be the vessel through which God’s blessings are poured out on creation. It begins with his promise to make Abraham the father of a multitude of nations and to bless all the families of the earth by his descendants. Indeed, Jesus was born as a “son of Abraham” in a mother’s womb and nurtured in a holy family, with a mother and a father. And the good news that Jesus came to announce is that God is our Father who loves us as his sons and daughters and who desires us to live as brothers and sisters.
For Christians, the crisis of fatherhood and the family makes it much harder for the Church to tell the world this good news and to lead people to God our Father. How are people supposed to understand these beautiful realities if they’ve never had any contact with their fathers or if they’ve never known any experience of traditional family life? I’m more convinced than ever that our mission to proclaim the Gospel requires the Church to work to restore a “family culture” in our society. the rest image by Geraint Rowland