Abba Days

Our summer calendar seems to be filled beyond capacity! As a result, my husband, our children and I have juggled several family celebrations in an effort to allow all concerned to attend weddings, pool parties, swim meets and the many other events which have come with this busy summer. Part of this jockeying of dates included Father’s Day. To ease the pressure on all concerned, my patient husband suggested that we celebrate his Father’s Day this weekend. The rest of us breathed a grateful sigh of relief as we quickly agreed to this arrangement. With that, I turned my thoughts to the tasks at hand until I sat to begin this writing. I’d given little thought to Father’s Day until I selected Mike’s card and then turned to today’s scripture passages. Both ignited vivid images of three dads who’ve touched my life.

“Daddy” references my biological father. Time spent in his company was a precious commodity because the six of us children filled our flat and our parents’ days. My dad also worked nights which meant that moments alone with him were rare. When he passed away at age thirty-nine, I was eight years old. At the time, I knew Daddy had taken up residence in heaven with my grandfathers and uncle who had passed on not long before. My dad knelt with us often to assist us in praying these loved ones into heaven. He also assured us that these special people would be very happy. In the days before my dad’s passing, my family prayed him into heaven as well. In the end, I determined that he would also be just fine. Case closed.

Some years later, my mom married my step-father. He became “Daddy” as well. Twenty-five good years later, it became evident that he would leave us as well. Oddly, I found myself less comfortable with the circumstances than I had been when my dad died. I knew my step-dad was ready to move on. He’d became too tired and too weak to continue and my mom could no longer care for him at home. Both of their hearts broke over his potential move to a nursing home. When this seemed imminent, my second Daddy closed his eyes and stopped eating. I prayed diligently for his peaceful passing and a few weeks later, he was gone. Though alleluias echoed throughout my step-dad’s Mass of Resurrection, peace escaped me. While I had no doubt regarding my step-dad’s fate, I fretted about what might have been and the things which were not quite perfect. I also fretted about my mom. This time, there were no children for her to care for. This time, she would return to an empty apartment to go it alone. While my mom seemed to have assumed the faithful acceptance I had exhibited at age eight, I found myself quite anxious and afraid over what lay ahead for her.

Fortunately, I finally turned over my worry to third “Daddy” who graces my life. Jesus always chose his words carefully and when he taught us to pray, he invited us to call upon God as “Abba”. The little children of Jesus’ day and their present-day counterparts lovingly address their daddies as “Abba”. Jesus intentionally invited us to do the same. My certainty that our Abba cares for us allowed me the calm which enveloped me when my first daddy passed away. When I lost my second daddy, the worries of adulthood caused me to forget that, no matter what, I am always in Abba’s care. When I finally remembered this, I realized that my mom and the rest of us were in God’s hands after all. This is the reason I can’t resist revisiting my Father’s Day sentiments for this writing. Jesus made every day Abba’s Day and today’s scriptures invite us to do the same.

In the first reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13), Jeremiah ends a lengthy and fearful lament with this realization: “The Lord is with me, like a mighty champion… he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!” In the second reading (Romans 5:12-15), Paul assures us that “…the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” If we continue to doubt that we bask is God’s loving care, Jesus settles the matter in today’s gospel (Matthew 10:26-33): “Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” There you have it! Though we may fail one another and fail ourselves in caring for those we’ve been given to love, our Abba remains steadfast in loving us through everything. Perhaps my family’s belated Father’s Day is well-timed after all. Every day really is Abba’s Day and it’s up to us to live accordingly with joy.

©2017 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved

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Alive In A New Way

A childhood friend recently shared that my dad and I appeared in one of his dreams. I couldn’t help smiling over this news. Perhaps my dad was signaling his approval of my recent trip to his parents’ village in Canada. Before I could continue my musing, my friend added that my dad looked just as he remembered him and that I appeared as a little girl. Trino and I met decades ago before we entered kindergarten. His dream intrigued me because my dad passed away when I was just eight years old. Though Trino had known my dad, I was amazed that he recognized him six decades later. After discussing the dream and some shared memories further, I hung up the phone and continued my own walk down Memory Lane. I considered the numerous loved ones who’ve passed away in the years since I lost my dad. “Odd that I typed ‘lost’,” I tell myself…

The truth is that my dad would be the first to point out the inaccuracy of my wording. A few years before he passed away, we gathered in our living room to pray for my ailing uncle. When it became clear that recovery was not in his prognosis, my mom encouraged us to pray for my uncle’s happy death. The youngest of us didn’t miss our mom’s meaning and tears flowed freely afterward. It was my dad who assured us that Uncle Gee would be perfectly healthy in heaven. His pneumonia would disappear. The curved spine caused by a childhood bout with polio would straighten and Uncle Gee would walk upright and tall. My dad seemed quite certain that Uncle Gee would live on in a far happier place and that he’d watch over us all the while. With that, my dad taught me that our loved ones who pass away are neither “lost” nor “away”. They are very much alive in a new way.

You know, this past week has been filled with thoughts of loved ones. They include those who were once a part of our own lives and the holy men and women from years and decades and centuries ago who’ve inspired our lives with their goodness. On All Saints and All Souls Days, we honor all of those who now live in that wonderfully new way. We honor some of them by name because we count them among our own family members or our circle of friends. We also honor many others who, unlike Therese of Lisieux, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, John of the Cross and Francis of Assisi, haven’t been assigned feast days of their own. Though they remain nameless to us, God and the Church recognize these mighty souls who did the best they could with the circumstances they were given. My friend’s dream set the tone for this week of happy memories and prayerful cheers for all of our loved ones who live in a new way today. With absolute faith in God’s merciful love, I prayed fervently for them and to them all.

I find that the timing of today’s scripture passages couldn’t be better. If you require further convincing of the new way of living which awaits us, read carefully. In the passage from Second Maccabees (7:1-2; 9-14), a widow and her sons willingly undergo torture and death because of “…the hope God gives of being raised up.” In Second Thessalonians (2:16-3:5), Paul’s disciple urges on his followers with God’s “…everlasting encouragement and good hope.” Jesus underscores these lessons with his own. Luke’s gospel (20:27-38) chronicles Jesus’ encounter with the Sadducees whose question forced Jesus to address life after this life. The Sadducees didn’t believe in resurrection and Jesus’ teaching in this regard troubled them considerably. As was his custom on such occasions, Jesus used the Sadducees’ knowledge of the scriptures to illustrate the point which they hoped to disprove. The Sadducees had the greatest esteem for the covenant handed down from the God of the Living to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus pointed out that if these holy and beloved patriarchs were dead, then theirs could not be the God of the Living. If theirs was the God of the Living, the patriarchs lived on as well! Though the Sadducees behaved as the villains in this passage, they gave their contemporaries and us cause for great hope.

I admit that belief in life after this life is a given for me. In spite of the tragedies which punctuate this life, it’s impossible for me to deny the new life that is to come. At the same time, I understand the troubles and tragedies which give us all reason to feel a bit like a Sadducee from time to time. At those times, I consider miracles such as the birth of a baby, a wayward teen who grows into a fine adult, an unexpected cure or rekindled love. The joy found in these events hints at the happiness which will come when we live in that new way. In the mean time, I’ll find inspiration in those who’ve gone before me while doing my best before I join them in God’s good time.

©2016 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved