A student once asked me, “what makes a good question?” After a brief pause, I replied that a good question respects the dignity of the human person and provides the person an opportunity to elicit a direct and honest response. Diving into his question a bit further, I told my student that a good question is predicated on investigating the objective truth of the subject on which the question was based.
When a young, recently married gentleman asked me what went through my mind when I saw my firstborn son take his first physical breath outside the comforts of his mother’s womb, I was more than eager to answer his question because of the blessing my son and the rest of my children have been for my wife and me. My first thought, I told him, was, “I must protect this child both spiritually and physically at all costs. He must be led to heaven; there is no alternative.” The young man was taken aback by my response as he was somewhat expecting: “I am just happy that he was born healthy with ten fingers and toes.” I assured him that those thoughts immediately crossed my mind, but they quickly transitioned to the reality that this child's spiritual and physical life has now been entrusted to my wife and me by our almighty God.
As the young husband pondered my response, I told him, “our role as parents will always require us to nurture and nourish our children based on their spiritual, physical, and psychological development. Parenting never rests; it is ongoing as spiritual parental intercessors even when they have established independence and formed their own families. As we were about to part ways, I told the young husband, now in what appeared to be deep cavernous thought, about my answers to his question, “our parenting aims to lead our children to heaven, not hell.”
In the book of Hebrews, we are told that God’s saving plan was accomplished once and for all through the redemptive death of his Son, Jesus Christ. The importance of this proclamation of the word of God is found in the words “saving plan.” From the beginning, God sought to allow us to see him and spiritually rest with him in heaven for all eternity. Even after the fall of man (original sin), God never surrendered the thought or intention of providing a salvific home for us.
The Accommodation of Fatherhood
God’s divine accommodation allowed us to avoid sin and have a dynamic, loving relationship with Him. Thus, when the Devil proposed the first act of disobedience against God, Adam and Eve freely chose to commit the first sin and reject God’s eternal love for them. The stage was set for the progression of a saving plan that would involve a sacrifice beyond all sacrificial offerings encountered in the Old Testament with Abraham, Isaac, or David. St. Paul reminds us that sin entered the world before the Law of God had been established through Moses. Though many died under the sin of Adam, many more will be saved under the sacrificial self-offering of Jesus Christ to destroy man’s sin. As one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.
What we encounter through the lens of St. Paul is an essential charism of fatherhood, to protect our children from the evils of sin and lead them to an active life with Jesus Christ that will allow them to spend eternity with God in heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses the role of fatherhood through the lens of God the Father:
God is the Father Almighty, whose fatherhood and power shed light on one another: God reveals his fatherly omnipotence by the way he takes care of our needs; by the filial adoption that he gives us (“I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”): finally by his infinite mercy, for he displays his power at its height by freely forgiving sins.
The Catechism again reminds us that divine fatherhood is the source of human fatherhood; the moment we become fathers to our children, my identity as a father is solidified as a primary caretaker, along with my beloved wife, for the souls of our children.
The Soul of a Child
During the infancy stage of development, a baby is helplessly reliant on his parents to feed and protect him. He cannot rely on his human faculties because of this early stage of human development. He needs his father and mother to provide him with the necessities of life, love, food, and shelter. As the child begins to develop an awareness of his environment, the maturation and care of his soul take on greater significance. This is where I argue that the role of fatherhood becomes an integral part of the child’s awareness of God and, through the Father’s active and visible relationship with Jesus Christ.
If there is a first step in cultivating your child’s soul to be receptive to Jesus Christ, introduce Jesus as a living reality that can be heard, seen, touched, reasoned, and understood. The role of language is a decisive first step where the daily conversation always mentions Jesus as Lord and Savior. As the everyday conversation about Jesus becomes commonplace at the dinner table (blessing before meals), before going to bed (thank you, Jesus, for this day), and as you wake up in the morning and say (good morning, Jesus, thank you for this day) these opportunities will hopefully lead to the introduction of more formal prayers within the household, such as the Our Father, Apostles Creed, the Hail Mary, and prayers to the saints. From here, you begin to associate language with images of Jesus, the Church, and the Saints, which allow the child to naturally embrace the awe and wonder of God and His Church. The aim of this process is not to accommodate our children to sin.
Accommodation of Sin and the Significance of Holy Week
In his letter to the Philippians, St. Paul describes his relationship with Christ as a journey toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God Jesus Christ. St. Paul conveys that Christ is central to why we exist and live. The goal is a complete union and intimacy with Christ, preparing us for Heaven. He completes his discourse by reminding everyone that our commonwealth is in heaven, and we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, the most solemn and sacred time for all of Christendom. The Holy Triduum marks the beginning of Jesus' journey with death, beginning with His Last Supper with the Apostles (Holy Thursday) before he is arrested and eventually led to his crucifixion (Holy Friday). We are about to encounter the consummation of the death of the Messiah, which reveals the victory of the Son of Man over sin and death. The works of the Devil have been destroyed. The intimate relationship between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is that He is our King and Lord of the Universe. He fulfills and completes what Adam could not resist, Satan’s false promises and empty spiritual works placing himself above God. By his death and resurrection, Jesus, the new Adam, opens the door for all of us to see and know God our Father through His son Jesus Christ.
The reality of Holy Week is that we encounter the Love of God for His children through the death and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ. God follows his children (Lk 15) and does not leave our side; he wants to have a relationship with us for all eternity. And this is the message we, as fathers to our children, should proclaim to them, and they receive from us. God does not want us to accommodate sin in our lives but the contrary, seek an accommodation of God’s love. Romano Guardini sums up the Paschal Mystery event beautifully; the heart of Jesus Christ is the beginning and end of everything.
Christ is Risen: The world below lies desolate
Christ is Risen: The spirits of evil are fallen
Christ is Risen: The angels of God are rejoicing
Christ is Risen: The tombs of the dead are empty
Christ is Risen indeed from the dead,
the first of the sleepers,
Glory and power are his forever and ever. Amen.
Easter Prayer By St. Hippolytus