Friday, October 29, 2010

Be A Dad: A Thoughtful Critique of Fr. Larry Richard's Article Relating Fatherhood to Family

           “You are going to die! … Isn’t that a nice thought?”[1] begins Fr. Larry Richards. Death motivates even the most stubborn and stagnant-hearted individuals. But in this case, Richards manipulates the deepest fear of the human race, death, as a catalyst for living out Christian fatherhood. The ultimatum of death’s reality, Richards implicitly articulates, should direct our attitude of life. With that in mind, a Christian father ought to especially live out Jesus’ command of love—Love one another as I have loved you. Love is the key that opens the lock to a faithful, wholesome, and life-giving marriage.
            Many men, however, fear the vulnerability which true love precipitates. Vulnerability comes from the Latin vulnero literally meaning “to wound.” Loving leaves room for hurt, pain, and intimate suffering—all of which are the inevitable “wounds.” But as Richards says, “You will never in your life regret that you told your wife…that you love [her] – never.”[2] In the end, reflecting on life, there will never be a thought of “I should not have loved.” We find that, interestingly enough, God tells us 365 times in Sacred Scripture, “Do not Be Afraid.” So then, how do we, as men, conquer this seemingly inherent fear to be intimate and vulnerable with others? Through love for God. We must be vulnerable with the Lord before we can be vulnerable with our wife.
            Loving and knowing God is not the same as knowing about Him. Memorizing Aquinas’ Cosmological Proofs or getting an “A” in this Christian Marriage class will not automatically reserve a spot for anyone in God’s Kingdom in heaven. We come to know God through spending time with God, just as how we come to know anyone in an intimate way. We must, as Fr. Larry Richards puts it, “Keep spending time with God until… you know God…”[3] God calls us, however, to a special relationship with Him—one that demands an intimacy unequivocally unrelated to any other human relationship. He is to be our Abba—our daddy—and we are to be His children. He is from Whom our model of Christian fatherhood should originate.
            Just as how Our Father loves wholly and unconditionally, so too ought we to love our wife and children. As it says in Ephesians, “Wives, be submissive to your husbands… Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church” – this demand upon the husband requires a Christo-centric heart committed to agape—the Greek understanding of unconditional love. Fr. Larry Richards says, “Every day [you] need to be more concerned about [the other]. That is what marriage is about!”[4] The term sacrifice comes from the Latin sacra meaning “holy or sacred.” So literally by sacrificing oneself for the other, a husband imparts holiness upon his wife and himself and vice versa. This is the beauty of a Christian Marriage—seeing Jesus Christ in your spouse.[5] The husband, however, has a specific and distinct role in the family dynamic.
            The husband, comments Fr. Larry Richards, is to be the “spiritual leader” of the family.[6] As the spiritual leader, he is explicitly called to lay down his life for his family. And yet, Richards calls men of this age “spiritual wimps” [7] for not daily carrying their cross in the light of Jesus Christ—the Man for Others par excellence. They are to lead through prayer, by coming to know the Lord in an intimate relationship and guiding their family closer towards Christ. They are to lead by sacrifice, making holy their families by giving of themselves unconditionally. They are to lead by humility, by realizing the vast importance concerning their duty to love and serve their family. They are to lead by example, living a life worthy of being admired—even Richards admits, “Men, your kids…will want to become just like you.” [8]
            Simplicity assumes men fully understand holiness. Holiness, however, is not sprinkling incense, lighting candles, charismatically speaking in tongues, nor having grace-filled visions. Holiness comes from the Hebrew word qadosh meaning “to be set apart or distinct.” As men, we must pray distinctly, lead distinctly, and love distinctly—best accomplished through faithfulness to wife, children, and God. Lacking in holiness comes at a grave cost. Richards mentions, “If we [men] are not holy ourselves, then our families will not be holy”[9]—how true! To live in a family devoted to living an unadulterated, wholesome Christian Marriage will set apart the family from the rest of the world. We must, especially in this day in age, be Christ to the world. That is true holiness.
            “You are going to die…isn’t that a nice thought?”[10] Yet, that implicitly states we, as men, have life left to live. We hold in the palm of our hand the greatest gift the Lord could give us—the ability to love Him—and we best love Him by loving others with the gifts He has given. He has blessed us with the opportunity to lead a family by gracing us with evident holiness, unreserved sacrifice, humble leadership, and tender prayer. There is a holy, distinct confidence that the Lord of the universe has given us a powerful mission—Love one another as I have loved you—and that is the “catchphrase” of Christian Marriage. As Fr. Larry Richards guarantees, “[Love] will change your family. [Love] will change the world.”[11]

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