To the one who fathers-forth, and his plan of sheer goodness …
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
The English Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins captures the magnificence of creation, even something of the haunting mystery that there is something rather than nothing, in this marvelous poem. All things have come from God. They belong to the dynamic love of the Father.
Hopkins in fact, concludes the paean of praise of creation describing God, saying, “He fathers-forth.” God is known by his work as Father, He who first creates, then sustains, and directs the whole of the order of creation.
The fundamental Christian claim on reality is that the world did not come from nothing. Creation is not a mistake or a coincidence. All that is, was made by God. The Catechism begins with these words which every Catholic should know:
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.
The beauty, order, and harmony of the world we see and study all point to the greatness and love of the one who made it. Today, the Scriptures remind us that, “Even all the hairs of our heads are counted.” The Father knows things from the inside, because he has made them.
Our own fathers hint at the kind of knowledge that our heavenly Father has. Mine seemed to have a supernatural knowledge of the thermostat for example. The care a father takes in tending a year and ordering a home are reflections of God our Heavenly Father who sends rains to water the fields and orders our worship.
But God has not left His creation to its own devices. God, our Heavenly Father, sustains all that is, at every instance. By caring for his creation He continues to be the author of life who ennobles every human soul with the rank of his own image and likeness.
This likeness cannot be erased. Even our own moral failures do not render us orphans. The mechanisms of grace and the Father’s love assure us, that, as Pope John Paul II teaches,
We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.
By sending his grace, particularly through the means of regular confession and worthy Holy Communions, the Father sustains us with His love. Pope Francis warns,
Without the grace that comes from the Father who is in heaven, fathers lose courage and abandon the field.
Human beings were made in the image of God, but the constant temptation of our culture is to efface that image. We must not let it be stamped out. Fathers, in particular, have a duty to their family, to protect this image, by availing themselves of the graces of prayer and the sacraments.
Finally, the Heavenly Father who creates and sustains, leads. We were made for something. The universe, which is ordered and patterned by God, is directed at something.
Fr. James Brent describes the mystery, saying,
God creates the world so that created persons may contemplate the order of things and by doing so come to know and love God to some extent—at least to the extent that his attributes are distantly reflected in the order, beauty, and harmony of things.
As the Scriptures say, we were made for life in the Father’s house. A life of seeing God, being united with every glory he intends. This is why even now, we sing, “Glory be to God for dappled things.”
Pope Francis declares,
A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself.
To stay on this path, fathers must direct their families. Children need to be pressed to worship well. Fathers have to declare to them right ways of life, without shying away from any of the difficulties of Gospel living. A father, who with his wife, is the first teacher of the faith, can offer a child the way to holiness, the way to live with the Heavenly Father.
On this Father’s Day, let us rejoice in the gift of our fathers. They, like all of creation, are as different and unique as only God Himself could have imagined. Our own fathers are marked by “trades, their gear and tackle and trim.” They may be “fickle, freckled (who knows how?)… swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim.” And they are ours. Praise Him.