Identity


Loving Fathers, Beloved Sons

by Father Phillip Chavez

From my full-time work in men’s ministry, I know that men struggle with their identity. This “identity crisis” stems most times from their struggle to see themselves as an acceptable and beloved son of their own fathers.

As a result, these men oftentimes fall short in the vital task of imparting a sense of being loved to their own children. This lack of identity in sonship also stifles the ability of fathers to raise their young ones with confidence and assurance.

In order to break this negative cycle between father and son, it is absolutely imperative that a strong identity in sonship be restored in Christian men, so they can be the secure and loving fathers God calls them to be.

Let’s start at the beginning.

The identity of a man is found most fully in the figure of Jesus Christ. He stands as the one to emulate because the qualities of manhood are found most perfectly in him – even the qualities of fatherhood.

This may sound strange at first, because Jesus never spoke of himself as a “father.” Rather, he referred to himself always as a “son” who was in close relationship with his Father in heaven. It was in this identity of sonship that he carried out his mission.

Yet Jesus exhibited all the traits of a good father. He was a leader, a man of strength and compassion, who called others to himself as family members. He taught them, fed them, loved them and died for them, giving them new life.

It is clear from the Gospels that Jesus does all of this because he bears within himself the image of the Father. Because he is loved by the Father, Jesus is able to love as a father. After all, a man cannot give what he does not have. If a father can find in himself the identity of a beloved son, then he can impart this identity to his own son.

Here, I will outline some key points to show how the divine Son related to his heavenly Father.

Jesus Christ shows us “the way”:

• by remaining in constant communication with the Father, and permitting the Father to communicate in return;

•  by carrying out the will of the Father, following the commandments and the mission he bestowed;

• by glorifying the Father in his deeds and words, allowing the Father’s glory to shine within him.

Let’s look at each point.

Communication with the Father

Jesus walked this earth always in communion with his heavenly Father, enjoying not simply an awareness of presence, but a fullness of vision. As limited humans, we cannot expect to enjoy this fullness of vision on earth; nonetheless, we must strive for an open communion with the Father.

For us, the secret to this communion is to open ourselves to dialogue with the Father as a son. It is the Father who begins the conversation – all we need to do is quiet our hearts and listen.

So, too, an earthly father must begin communication with his son, asking only that the son open his heart and mind. A loving father goes out to meet his son, even when the son has gone astray.

Doing the Will of the Father

Christ’s life was oriented toward accomplishing the will of his Father. The goal of communion with the Father is not only to know him, but also to do what he commands. In this way, you can find the peace and contentment he promises.

Jesus said, “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:9-11).

Certainly, what the heavenly Father requires is often difficult; yet faith tells us that the Father is with us, to guide and strengthen us in his mission.

This was the test for Jesus on the journey to Calvary. The test for the Christian man is to face the sturdiest hardships, even unto death, in obedience to the Father.

What is fearsome to every man is to trust that God the Father will assist him in even the worst of trials. Christ’s way of the cross gives us the model to follow, and the Father supplies the strength.

Working for the Glory of the Father

Finally, when walking with God, we should do so not for our own sakes, but for the glory of the heavenly Father.

Spiritually, every man desires to live in the favor and grace of his father; thus, these words of Jesus resound: “I have glorified you on earth; having accomplished the work which you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Every man realizes there is something beyond himself that he must accomplish. Whatever the mission, the Father bestows it, and it is he who is exalted when it is completed.

Approval from the Father

Our happiness is found in close association with the Father. This intimacy gives us peace, mission, and identity — the strength of our lives as men and fathers.

All men feel deep within themselves the need for approval of the father in their lives, so that they can move forward to maturity and exist with vitality. In our human journey, we need to hear the words which Christ received — words which every man yearns to hear: “Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11).

Father Phillip Chavez, a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, is the founder and director of a men’s outreach ministry, helping men to understand their masculine identity and journey. For more information, visit www.amatorleague.com.