Last weekend we celebrated Father’s Day down under in Australia. No doubt there were gifts given, a hug or a handshake and maybe some went out for lunch as a family. It was also a good reminder to take a moment and consider the importance and example of fatherhood through the eyes of Jesus. The Gospel writers’ record that Jesus was both cared for by Saint Joseph, His earthly father, and developed His relationship with God the Father.
Saint Joseph played a critical role in supporting Mary through her pregnancy; his work was carried out quietly and carefully, with little fuss and regard for his own needs. He was a man who put others first, who saw a need and responded with loving action.
There are no records of Jesus’s teenage years, but it is possible to imagine the training and work that He completed alongside His tradesman father. There is no doubt Jesus learnt much from the time he spent with Joseph; how to relate to people, how to use his strength to support others, how to tell jokes and enjoy the company of friends.
Joseph is named as a carpenter or stonemason in the Gospels, and was someone who transformed raw materials into something they could not become on their own. It is possible to imagine Jesus learning the gift of creating and building from the time He spent with Joseph. Jesus also transformed people through His encounters and became the bridge to those on the peripheries, using His hands to heal, empower, and set people free. He was a builder of bridges between people, and His three years of ministry demonstrated the importance of creating an ‘us’ not ‘them’ approach to all people.
Remarkable stories of fatherhood and devotion to children continue within our communities, often going unnoticed and unappreciated. A well-known example is ‘Team Hoyt.’ Rick was born in 1962 to Dick and Judy Hoyt, and as a result of oxygen deprivation to Rick’s brain at the time of his birth, Rick was diagnosed as a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy.
In the spring of 1977 Rick asked his father if they could run in a race together to benefit a lacrosse player at his school who had become paralyzed. One problem: Dick was not a runner, and was 36 years old. Great fathers, however, make sacrifices. He agreed and pushed his son’s wheelchair the full five miles. In 1981, the Hoyts would finish their first Boston Marathon. Four years later, on Father’s Day, the father and son would take on something that was, at the time, unprecedented: a triathlon that consisted of a one-mile swim, a 40-mile bicycle ride, and a 20-mile run. A father-son team that began racing in support of others less fortunate, sacrificing their time and energy to benefit others, Team Hoyt continued in that same spirit for 37 years. They proved to everyone that anything can be done with enough stubborn persistence, dedication and, ultimately, the bottomless depths of love that can be found only in the unique bond between a father and his son; love found only if sought out and fully realized. (https://www.triathloninspires.com/thoytstory.html)
“He’s the one who has motivated me because if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be out there doing triathlons. What I’m doing is loaning Rick my arms and legs so he can be out there competing like everybody else” Dick Hoyt
We thank God for the gift of those who’ve fathered and taught us what it means to be a builder of bridges. Fatherhood does not come with a manual, and reality teaches us that some fathers excel while others fail. We ask God’s blessings for each of them and forgiveness where it is needed. We remember the many sacrifices fathers make for their children and families, and the ways they lift children to achieve dreams thought beyond reach.
How are you loaning your children your arms and legs? How have you been apprenticed by God in your life?
Copyright 2019 Nathan Ahearne