Men on a Mission

by Joseph McInerney

Suppose you had a choice: your dream car with all the options and a summer home on the shore, or a life of daily toil spent with persons you truly love and who truly love you.

Which would you choose? Think twice.

The answer lies in what really makes you happy. If there is more to happiness and fulfillment than material comfort, where can we turn to find the truth about these things?

While there is always a limit to the number of things you can accumulate, or cars you can fit on your driveway, there is no limit to the amount of happiness a human heart can receive – or give. The same is true for love.

Ultimately, the human heart reaches out to the infinite and eternal love of God.

The Second Vatican Council tells us that we should look to Jesus Christ to find the meaning of human fulfillment. “Christ…in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his very high calling” (Gaudium et Spes, 22).

The Christian father must look to the God-man, Jesus Christ, for the meaning of human life and happiness. Turning to Christ we see a very different conception of happiness than that offered by our consumer culture.

Mission: Redemption

Christ’s role on earth can be depicted in terms of a mission. God the Father sends his only-begotten Son into the world to reconcile it to himself. In other words, the mission of Jesus is nothing less than to save the souls of all people from all time.

Christ achieves this mission through his roles as priest, prophet and king. As the perfect priest, Christ offers himself as the perfect sacrifice for the salvation of all humanity. As a prophet, he bears God’s message of reconciliation to the world, teaching about God’s love and mercy. As king, he rules the universe, exercising his authority through service and humility.

The mission of the modern-day father, like that of Christ, is the salvation of souls. The difference between them is the fact that Christ’s mission is universal, concerned with the salvation of all mankind. The father’s mission is concerned primarily with the salvation of his own family. Despite the difference in scope, the father has the same methods at his disposal to achieve this mission of salvation.

Through his share in Christ’s grace in the sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony, a father shares the grace of Christ’s death and resurrection with his children. He is also a priest in the sense that he brings his children to the sacraments, giving them a direct share in the grace of Christ.

The father is a prophet – the bearer of God’s message – to his children by fulfilling his obligation to teach them the Catholic faith.

Lastly, he performs Christ’s kingly function as the spiritual head of his family. This headship is always exercised in a Christian manner, rather than a worldly manner. A father’s obligation to lead his family in holiness is not a call to domination, but to service.

A Father’s Fulfillment

Each week at Mass when reciting the Gloria we learn that Christ alone is the holy one. In living out the vocation of fatherhood, a man is called to imitate the holiness that led Christ to give his entire self for the love of his brothers and sisters. At its root, then, fatherhood is a call to holiness. The example of Christ shows that holiness consists in the radical gift of oneself for the sake of others.

Fatherhood is the mission that allows a man to give of himself unreservedly. Thus, it is through fatherhood that most men will find their greatest happiness. To avoid fatherhood for the sake of that dream car, or that special summer home, is to cheat yourself out of one of life’s most rewarding experiences. By calling men to make a gift of themselves to others, God calls fathers to a life of remarkable holiness, indescribable happiness, and true fulfillment.

Joseph McInerney, a graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, lives in Springfield, Va., with his wife and five children.  He is also a member of Springfield Council 6153.