By Msgr. John Wynand Katende
Father's Day is long past, but its intended lessons continue. Father's Day is intended to honor fathers and fatherhood, paternal bonds, and to underscore the influence of fathers in society. Abraham, a man chosen to become the father of nations, has lessons for all fathers.
Abraham obeyed when God called him to set out for a land that he was to receive as an inheritance. By faith he was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac/Ishmael. Abraham is also recognized as the spiritual progenitor of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
However, Abraham was not a perfect person. In his dealings with God, he had his doubts and made mistakes. In his desire to avoid conflict, Abraham relinquished his God-given authority to his wife in order to please her. This mistake resulted in the most extraordinary suffering the earth will ever know.
God had promised Abraham a son, but did not give all the information needed. As Sarah became too old to bear a child, both began to wonder if God would keep his promise. So she told Abraham to sleep with Hagar, the Egyptian maid servant. In those days it was a common practice. Abraham followed Sarah’s lead.
Abraham should have known better. He is the one who was always talking with God. He knew what was right and what was wrong. As in the case of Adam and Eve, God holds the husband accountable for the actions, behavior and decisions of the wife. Hagar had a son, Ishmael, because of Abraham’s mistake.
And, as with all sin, there were unexpected, negative consequences. Hagar began to consider herself better than Sarah. Again to please Sarah, Abraham sent Ishmael away. Today we see the descendants of Ishmael in many countries of the Middle East and Asia. They are also spiritual children of Abraham in the Muslim religion. Muslims claim that God actually promised the land of Israel to Ishmael. This is the root cause of endless conflicts in Israel between the Arabs and Jews even to this day.
It is always a bad idea to try to accomplish God’s plan in our own way and our own timing. God’s plans come complete with His methods and His timing, and when we try to interfere with that, it messes everything up. God sometimes moves slowly, and He will always allow us to outrun Him if we want, but when we do, we inevitably go wrong, and cause devastation. Running ahead of God, actually, never speeds things up, it only slows things down, and causes great troubles later on. It delays the reign of God.
Fathers must stand up to their vocation of spiritual leadership over the family. Since woman was created to be a companion of the man, she can only play an auxiliary role in spiritual matters (cf. Genesis 2:18). A husband must disciple the wife and children by being faithful to God and His word. If the husband abandons his responsibility, disaster most often results. It happened with Abraham as it also happened with Adam. It, wretchedly, continues to happen.
Fathers should take responsibility for their actions, and do so in good time. They should also learn to trust that God, in His sovereignty, can even bring good from their mistakes, and that their mistakes can never frustrate God’s plan and purposes for mankind.
In the story of Abraham, God wants to teach fathers that He does not chose basing on perfection, but rather on faith. The faith of every father will grow, if they are willing to walk humbly with God, like Abraham progressively did (cf. Romans 4:12).
Writer is a Catholic priest