I am not honestly sure who came up with the idea of “Father’s Day” or for that matter “Mother’s Day”? Was it the Church? Or was it a card making company that spotted a gap in the market? And therefore encourages us to spend money on cards, meals out, balloons, chocolates and other paraphernalia?
At one level the origin of “Father’s Day” does not really matter too much. The sentiment however surely does.
And having worked with men and young men for nearly 30 years, and in ever more, becoming concerned as to how men in society and especially young men today are facing very real “storms” (men storms?) in their life, this Gospel reading from the Gospel of Mark Chapter 4, offers fresh challenge in how the Church might follow Christ’s command to “Let’s go across to the other side” and engage more robustly with men…of all ages backgrounds, needs and possibility.
The Gospel reading.
35-38 Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”
39-40 Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”
41 They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!”
No doubt for many, “Father’s Day” as is the case with “Mother’s Day” can throw up a number of reactions…
Sadness as we remember Dads no longer with us.
Happy memories of Dads laughing, playing, working hard to make a living and as teenagers sometimes deliberately embarrassing us.
And if we are honest, sometimes when we think of our Father there may well be that sense of confusion. Dads (alongside Mums) are human too….
As today we give thanks to God for our Dads, I do wonder if the Church needs now, more than ever to have a time of both soul searching and deep engagement with…men.
We know that when it comes to men’s mental health and in regard to how many men die by suicide, men predominately are more likely to end their lives as opposed to women. Every life lost through suicide utterly tragic.
We know that in terms of physical violence, young men as perpetrators and young men as victims can fill our courtrooms.
We know that in terms of domestic abuse, women carry a deep deep burden in their encounter with (some) men.
We know that in the life of a young man, the cancer of pornography can corrode his view of men, women, relationships, sex.
We know that whilst young women sadly form the majority of those living with an eating disorder, cases of young men seeking to conform to the “ideal” male body type and experiencing an eating disorder is rapidly on the increase.
Many men (but not all) and many young men (but not all) are facing “men storms” as never before.
The Church (according to http://www.patrickcomerford.com) has historically understood itself (through this story anyway) as being a boat, carrying Christ, sailing to the other shore and getting caught up in a storm. A boat bringing the Gospel message of hope amidst the threat of being overwhelmed.
This Father’s Day. Let’s not be afraid to set sail into the “men storms” that can sink beneath the waves (some) men (and their families, relationships, communities). Let’s not be afraid to hear and share in men’s stories and lives and experience of brokenness and redemption.
And as much as the Church seeks to introduce men and women, girls and boys to the person of Christ and a welcome too belong to and contribute to the Church; let’s not forget Buber’s maxim…
“No one is a problem to be solved. They are a person to be met”.
“Summer Rose” Donegal. Picture courtesy of @savbrown