Dear Sisters and Brothers –
There was a period in the mid-90’s in which I tuned into country music almost exclusively. Garth Brooks became a favorite after seeing him early on as the warm-up act for The Judds at the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. Though there are a few songs I still keep in my smart phone, I rarely listen any longer.
It seems, however, that some of those songs are stored deeply somewhere in my brain – or my heart – because earlier this week one came to mind out of the blue: George Strait’s A Love Without End, Amen. The singer begins telling of when he was a child and was sent home from school for fighting and expected the worst from his father. The father’s response becomes the song’s refrain: “Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love, a secret that my daddy said was just between us. He said, ‘Daddies don’t just love their children every now and then. It’s a love without end, amen.’” In verse two, the singer passes that bit of wisdom onto his own son.
It’s those words that came to mind unbidden this week when I opened an envelope decorated with my father’s unmistakable penmanship. Inside, written on a lopsided bit of paper torn from one of his handmade scratchpads, was a note that said only “Not open for discussion.” Accompanying the note was a check on which was written on the Memo line (again in Dad’s beautiful script) “Bike.” (He and Mom know I’m saving for a new one.) He sent another similar note a couple of months ago: “This may help defray some of your costs – Iowa ‘thinger.’” (I’ll be riding with three cousins across Iowa next month in the 46th annual RAGBRAI.) I have other such notes from across the years, saved between the pages of various prayer books. They accompanied other gifts, such as almonds he occasionally roasts and sends me or the box of Christmas cookies from the batches he baked the year Mom was sick and couldn’t make them.
Dad is 88 years old, and I’m staring at 60. “It’s a love without end, amen.”
In our Gospel this weekend, we hear about the seed that grows imperceptibly, that seed being the kingdom of God. We are invited to have a faith that believes this is true, which is not dissimilar to the faith that our fathers had in us as we were growing up and – for those of us who are fortunate enough – have still for us today. In that sense, our dads were one of the best metaphors for God’s love for us.
It seems that George Strait understood this when he wrote the last verse of his song: “Last night I dreamed I’d died and stood outside those pearly gates, when suddenly I realized there must be some mistake: ‘If they know half the things I’ve done, they’ll never let me in.’ And then somewhere from the other side, I heard these words again: Let me tell you a secret about a father’s love, a secret that my daddy said was just between us. He said, ‘Daddies don’t just love their children every now and then. It’s a love without end, amen.’”
God bless our fathers on Father’s Day, those with us and those in heaven. Let’s also ask God to hold in a special way those fathers and their children who have been separated in ways unimaginable to us owing to an absence of Christian mercy in the application of the rule of law.
On another note, this weekend six of our parishioners are in Denver taking part in the Jesuit Parish Justice Summit, hosted at Regis University by our partners at the Ignatian Solidarity Network. They join attendees from Jesuit parishes in Baltimore, New York, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Sacramento, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to discern, pray, connect, learn, and engage with like-minded faithful working for social justice through their parish ministries. These fellow parishioners have been among those working hard during the past 15 months in service for our St. Ignatius Parish's immigrant accompaniment and solidarity efforts, supporting a young family seeking asylum in the U.S. and generally raising our community's understanding of how we can live out our call to be neighbor and welcome the stranger in need. Please pray that they be attentive to how the Holy Spirit is present in the good and important work of this weekend's Summit.
Oremus pro invicem,