When the Father Came Running
Fatherlessness is an epidemic. We all know this. With broken marriages on the rise and the traditional definition of marriage being attacked from all angles, we see an increasing amount of people growing up without a dad. Growing up, I found myself in that very situation. For those who have read the story of my conversion (found here), you can see this fact played a large role in my life. I grew up dadless, and this left me extremely jaded with a lot of resentment, bitterness, and unforgiveness in my heart.
I did not realize the impact my dadless upbringing would have on my life, especially the impact it would make on me spiritually. Though my dad was technically “in my life” until my early twenties, which meant I would see him a few times a year, I was never truly pursued as a son. Each time I would go to visit him, he would hand me off to go play with my step siblings and rarely ever spent quality time. When I expressed my sadness over not being pursued to him, it only resulted in being pursued less. To be fair, I do not think my Dad knew how to be a Dad. Truthfully, I do not believe many men understand what it takes to be a father, however why this is the case is the subject for another blog.
Shortly after my initial conversion, I began to question my relationship with each Person of the Blessed Trinity. In my initial conversion, I had encountered Jesus Christ. In the Sacrament of Confirmation which I experienced shortly thereafter, I experienced the Holy Ghost. However, my encounter with the person of God the Father was not something I could speak about. I could speak about God in general and the different attributes that I had experienced in my life, from His Love and mercy to His grace and power, and even His correction. But I could not say for certain that I had a solid relationship with the Person of the Father.
I rarely prayed to God the Father. I would pray to Jesus. I could relate with Him. I could see Him in sacred art and especially in the Most Blessed Sacrament. But the Almighty Father was not someone I related to at all. In hindsight, I could see that this was influenced by my relationship with my own dad. Somewhere, deep down, I felt I could not trust Him. I felt I would not be a priority to Him. Somehow I felt I had to earn his love. I think I subconsciously saw the Father as a distant person, who really wanted nothing to do with me. I did not know a man who wanted to pursue me as a son. I did not know what that even looked like. How could God the Father pursue me? Why would He want to? Though these feelings were not the case in reality, this was an impact of my fatherless upbringing. Whether I recognized it or not, I needed the Father.
In preparation for the Great Jubilee Year 2000, Blessed Pope John Paul II declared the three years preceding the Jubilee to be dedicated to each person of the Holy Trinity. The year 1999 was dedicated to God the Father. The summer of 1999, I was invited to join a group of young people to attend a Franciscan University of Steubenville High School Youth Conference. This year was dedicated to God the Father as well. After listening to the talks which really spoke to my need for the Father, I began to cry out in my heart to God the Father to show up and to fix me.
The climax of these youth conferences has been and always will be the time of Eucharistic Adoration and this time was no exception. As the priest processed around the conference tent, I knelt in preparation to see our Blessed Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. The band was playing reflective worshipful music and the lights were dimmed. As the priest came in the procession, followed by Altar boys carrying candles and incense, I looked up into the window of the Monstrance at the Sacred Host. I had looked into the Monstrance many times before. I BELIEVED Jesus was there, but I didn’t KNOW that Jesus was there. As I knelt there on the ground, I looked up to see our Blessed Lord as the priest stopped right near me and raised the Monstrance to perform a Benediction. As this occurred, two very powerful things happens. Firstly, Jesus was awaking my heart to the reality of his Real Presence in the Sacred Host. I no longer had to believe He was there. I just knew. I cannot explain it, but to this very day, I cannot help but long for Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament and know without a shadow of a doubt that He is there. The second thing that occurred was that I heard a profoundly clear and powerful voice exclaim in the depths of my heart “I love you”. My heart knew who this voice was. It was God the Father. While Jesus was driving home the reality of His Presence, God the Father was revealing Himself to me in a very profound way. This voice was a different voice than I had experienced before in my times of prayer with Christ. My heart knew it was God the Father. Jesus says “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). I feel this moment was proof of this. Jesus, in the Sacrament of His Love, revealed God the Father. In that moment, the unforgiveness, anger and bitterness dissolved in my heart. I broke down in that moment and was an absolute mess, but it was the healing I needed.
In the Parable of the Prodigal Son in the Gospels, the son who betrays the father, leaves home, only to return to beg for help. However, I always found that the most important part of the story was that the father waited on the front porch for the son to return, and when he saw his son on the horizon, he RAN to his son. This was an undignified action, as the father’s wealth had just been squandered after his son basically told him that he wanted him dead (asking for his part of his inheritance). The father still ran. Though I wasn’t necessarily at odds with God, I didn’t know the Father. This however changed with this experience of God’s love. I felt like God the Father ran to me and still does. It is such an incredible thing to experience and is really hard to put into words what it is like. But God the Father’s love is real and it changes everything.
Jesus came to reveal the love of God the Father. Christ is changeless and ever faithful. Therefore, Jesus still comes to us, through the Blessed Sacrament, to reveal the Love of the Father to all. God the Father gives us Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament(John 3:16, John 6:56). If you are a person who struggles with a relationship with God the Father because you’ve also had bad experiences with bad men in the past, don’t hesitate to ask God the Father to run to you. Turn to Jesus, especially present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and beg Him to introduce you to His Father. Jesus loves His Father, and only wishes to reveal His love, therefore, persist in asking, and I can guarantee, you will encounter God the Father.
If God the Father loves Jesus infinitely above all, how much of a sacrifice must it have been for Him to offer the one person He loved the most to save us, who are less than worms in comparison? When we struggle with whether God the Father truly loves us, all we need to do is look at the Crucifix and there we see the Love of the Father displayed.
In the Immaculata,