Happy Father’s Day!
As our nation sets aside special days to honor our fathers and mothers, we must remember that they are not inseparable of duty, calling and function according to God’s creation and purpose as recorded in the Book of Genesis.
We know that if motherhood is the source of all love and compassion, then we can say that fatherhood is the source of security and stability.
Today, I will dwell on the issue of what makes a man a dad. A father can become a dad only in a school called, “the academy of marriage,” where he learns what to say and do. A good dad most often has a good father to learn from.
In our society, we have a very confusing image of what makes a father. Social media, TV or Hollywood presents us with violent fathers, helpless men or men missing from action. It does not teach us about the qualities of a good dad which resides in his image and likeness to be like God and to show the respect received from a mother.
No one goes to school to learn the art of fatherhood, but we are called upon, as a dad, to carry what we have inherited from our fathers and mothers. A father should be a man of prayer, conviction and honor who guards the reputation and good name of his family. So, the internship we all do as dads will be enhanced by our wives. He must cultivate a humble attitude.
In life, we have three fathers, our biological father, our adopted father and the one Father Who remains forever – our Heavenly Father. The prayer of the church reminds us that the image of a good father is Christ and the image of a good mom is the church. St. Paul speaks of this metaphor to Illustrate how mothers and fathers are to journey through life.
Since I was sent to the monastery, my memories of my late father are up to the age of 12. My father attended my high school graduation and my ordination into the Holy Diaconate in Damascus, after I left the seminary.
From the earliest days, my father communicated well with my older brothers and sisters and their families since they were all married. He respected my mother. By his actions, I learned truth, courage, strength and not to fear failure. These virtues have stayed with me. They have provided for me the foundation of all the trials and tribulations of life.
I learned more about my father from his friends as I grew older. I heard what people said about him, the things he did not say himself. His humility, faith and ever-abiding love and sacrifice for his family and friends was well known.
The Holy Church teaches and encourages that parenthood is a Holy and Divine calling. In it, we mold our children’s lives by impressing good character, and we influence them by being a good role model.
So, every father must talk to his children, not only about God, but to be a Godly man. Every father must talk about to his children not how to love their mom, but how he loves and respects their mom. As fathers should be patient with their children, so should the children be patient with their dads.
We must keep the story of family alive in a positive mode and put aside whatever we have inherited of the negative issues. A father will project to his children where we are at and where, one day, we will accomplish our God-given purpose and destiny.
This could be a story of success that can carry with it some failure, but to also reemphasize that hope, faith and love is the greatest psychological and spiritual nourishment a dad can infuse into the life of his children. We can do this by not judging, condemning, or comparing, but by always looking ahead to stay grounded in our principles and convictions.
There is a difference between judging failure or encouraging improvement. Encouragement always looks at one’s own ability to grow. Condemnation is the formula to impede growth.
So today, we remind every father not to preach to their children. Leave the preaching to the church. As Metropolitan GEORGE Khader, Archbishop of Mount Lebanon once stated, “I can see God’s face on the face of my dad.”
The Orthodox Christian Sacrament of Marriage perfectly defines how a man becomes a husband and later a dad. First and fore most to be with God. Before the wedding service, the man is reminded by Psalm 128 about his calling and the reward he will reap in his marriage:
“How blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, Who walks in His ways. When you shall eat of the fruit of your hands, you will be happy, and it will be well with you. Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, your children like olive plants around your table.Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the Lord.” (Psalm 128:1-4)
Fearing the Lord means that a man who leads his family to church will be a good example to them morally and will lead them in generosity, truth, and forgiveness. The family is the school that one day the children will graduate from to be good parents.
So, to all dads, we bless you today and we are grateful. To those dads who are in heaven, we say thank you. “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.”
(1 Corinthians 8:6)
There will be no graduation from the school of fatherhood until one has grandchildren. Only then will a father see all the fruits of his diligence, labor, and love.
Father George H. Shalhoub is the pastor and founder of the Antiochian Orthodox Basilica of St. Mary in Livonia, MI, established in 1972. Father George is married to Nouhad Ghareeb Shalhoub and has 4 children and 9 grandchildren.