I always thought my dad was a superhero. Not the “wears tights with masks and fights crime” kind of superhero, but the “can do anything, anytime, anywhere” kind of superhero. In my mind he was impossibly fast, super tall, and incredibly strong. He was the defender of all that was good, the protector of all that was sacred, the shining light in a world of darkness.
When I was in kindergarten and he’d drop me off at school, he’d tickle my cheek with his tri-colored mustache, and I knew he loved me with all his heart. When he took me down to the bayou and taught me how to fish, I knew my dad was a good ole’ southern boy who loved to have fun. When he pulled out his rifle and started cleaning it as I was being picked up for my first date, I knew my dad was protective and cared immensely about my well being. When he was teaching me how to drive and I backed into the mailbox, rather than getting mad and yelling, he kept a level head, and I knew my dad had been blessed with patience. When he grounded me for breaking curfew, even though I was furious at him, I knew he was being just and fair. When he moved me into my dorm room and gave me a hug goodbye, he slipped me fifty bucks and warned me not to spend it all in one place, and I knew my dad was generous. When I cheered him on as he crossed the finish line of the Houston Marathon, I knew my dad was hardworking and tough. When he texted me good luck before my final exams, I knew my dad was supportive. When I graduated from college and he fought tooth and nail to get to the front of the line to take a picture, I knew my dad was proud of me.
I will always think of my dad as somewhat of a superhero, not necessarily because he’s got super-powers, but just because he’s my dad, and no one could ever take his place. Having a dad is a universal experience to which most of us can relate. We look to our fathers for guidance and advice, lean on them for support, and hold them in high esteem as the leaders of our families. So, when Scripture tells us about God the Father, and we read of how He interacts with Jesus His Son, we can quickly understand what that relationship entails and connect it back to our own lives. When we read further of how God is our Father, giving us life and walking with us through it, the idea penetrates our hearts and helps us further understand just how central He is in our lives.
This weekend, the first reading from Jeremiah tells us of the consoling Lord, who leads His people. Even though they are scattered, He will “gather them from the ends of the world” and take care of them. His beloved Israel, His chosen ones, won’t stumble or falter, but will walk firmly as He guides them. We are told of a God who is protective – a God who holds our hand and leads us where we must go. The Psalm solidifies this idea, because we celebrate this protective Father as we shout with praise and “are filled with joy.” Just as He guided us so we would stand “on a level road,” now He fills our hearts with laughter and we rejoice at the good fortune He has bestowed upon us. The first reading and the Psalm illustrate the qualities of a good, supportive, protective father, and point to God as the ultimate example of Fatherhood.
The second reading from Hebrews continues the “fatherhood” theme by describing the priesthood, a sacred honor to which one is called. He becomes holy by way of the glorified Christ, guiding the flock to a deeper relationship with THE Father (the same Father who called him to this vocation). Finally, in the Gospel, the image of the guiding, protective, supportive father reaches its’ pinnacle as Jesus, the only Son of the Father, heals Bartimaeus. Trusting in His power, Bartimaeus calls out to Jesus, begging for His mercy. Calling upon the power He shares with His Father, Jesus heals Him. Bartimaeus is given his sight, and now he can physically see. More than that, though, Bartimaeus is given a deeper spiritual sight, because it is his faith that has saved him. His trust in Jesus’ power, given to Him by the Father, pushes Bartimaeus to ask for healing and to continue following Jesus on the way. No longer will Bartimaeus stumble or falter, just as the Israelites from the first reading will no longer stumble, because the Father is leading them.
This weekend’s readings force us to reflect on God as our Father and provide a chance for us to reflect on our own dad’s presence in our lives. Do we turn to God the Father for support and guidance, trusting that He will lead us on a level road? Are we filled with joy when He provides for us? Have we been grateful as He calls good, holy men to the priesthood who walk with us on our spiritual journey? Do we have trusting hearts, like Bartimaeus, and firmly believe that we will be granted the sight we need to walk faithfully with God, our Father? When I’ve struggled with believing that God really does have my best interests at heart, I’ve had to remind myself of a father’s true role: to be a supportive, truthful, steadfast presence in the life of his child. It isn’t always easy for us to relate to God, simply because He’s God – all powerful and mighty – and we’re so totally not God. But we can look to our dads, remind ourselves of the relationship we have with him, and apply that to how we understand God.