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A Fathers’ Day Message by Loree Cruz-‐‑Mante
Give, and it will be June 15, 2003 given to you; good National City United Church measure, pressed 7:30 and 10:00 a.m. services down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your appy Fathers’ Day to all the lap. For the measure fathers here today, you give will be the especially to my Dad, my measure you get back. brother Kuya Ani, and my husband (Luke 6:38) James. Today, we thank God for the gift of our fathers, and celebrate their presence in our lives. I know that some of you have fathers you didn’t wish for. Some of you might not even have had the joy of knowing your father. This does not disqualify you from finding meaning in this morning’s message. The important thing is that you are a father, and regardless of what your own father might have been, you ARE a father to your children. I have so often wondered how difficult it must be for people to understand God the Father’s love without the experience of a loving earthly father. Probably one of the most painful words I have heard are those shared by one of our colleagues in the Child Labor network who said, “My father is still alive somewhere, but as far as I am concerned, he is dead.” Today, I wish to talk about a very special father, not because he is my father, but because fathers may pick up a thing or two from all of his 88 years, 58 of them spent as a father. “Train a child in the way he
A Father’s Day Lay Sermon
should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” the Bible says. My Dad’s training program is very simple. It has no complex diagrams of learning curves. It has no ladderized curriculum. It has no exam or assessment periods. It only has one lesson: Live the gospel. What are the components of my Dad’s training program? What is the gospel according to my father? The Gospel according to my father is a gospel of love. My Dad started his career with a bang, being topnotcher of the 1939 Civil Engineering Board exams. He taught at the National University and at the University of the Philippines, worked as an astronomer for the Weather Bureau during which stint he predicted, with to-‐‑the-‐‑s econd accuracy, the total solar eclipse of 1955. He later moved to the then National Science Development Board (NSDB), and served as Director of the Philippine Textile Research Institute for 13 years. While Director, he spearheaded the growing of cotton and silk in the Philippines when no one believed that cotton and silk could be grown and spun here. Somewhere in the midst of working, teaching, and traveling, he finished his Masters degree in Mathematics from UST, a talent and an ability I did not inherit. My late mother used to tell me that my Dad was an absentee father during our growing up years. Kudos to Mommy for covering up for his absence, but without diminishing her efforts, I can say that I never felt that he wasn’t there as often as a child would have wanted. My memories of childhood are replete with images of our family Wednesdays when Daddy religiously took us all to the Samson Bowling Lanes near our home to play a game or two with the duck pins. He took me to the Philippine Education and Alemar’s Bookstores to buy me paper dolls which I loved to cut out and dress up even more than real
dolls. He took us on picnics and annual vacations to the beach, to Baguio, to La Union, to anywhere his meager salary as a government employee and my Mommy’s frugal ways afforded. During my teen years, he picked me up from every single date I ever had, waking up at 2 or 3 in the morning to drive to wherever I was because he did not want me to be brought home alone in my date’s car. He trusted no one in this regard. I even think he also distrusted James until he was sure that James really loved me. After college, when I got a teaching fellowship in the States which provided a stipend but not travel tickets, Daddy took out a Fly Now, Pay Later plan to send me there. Later, after I quit a job I had here, he lent me some money to buy the company car assigned to me, and again some more to start my consulting business in 1982. (By the way, Dad, nabayaran ko na ho yon ha.) I don’t remember Daddy ever giving me a sermon on love, but because he lived it and continues to live it, there is no louder sermon I need to hear. His love for my Mommy with whom he shared 57 years, for my brother, my sister, and now his apos is a poignant message like no other. The Gospel according to my father is a gospel of giving. Daddy’s generosity often violates my own sense of what is proper. To Dad, giving is unconditional. Any person needing help must be helped. This has resulted in a long list of abusive persons, mostly relatives who exploit his goodness. Needless to say, this list often causes my blood pressure to rise, while Daddy’s BP remains irritatingly normal. Dad puts a stop to all my attempts at argumentation with a curt “E mabuti nga hindi ko kailangan manlimos o manamantala ng iba
tulad ng gawa nila sa akin. I have enough to spare.” Even “enough to spare” is contestible, given that he lives on interest. End of story. And for the encouragement of our financial secretary, Ruth Abad, and our Board of Stewards, this guy tithes his 10% faithfully and cheerfully. Daddy’s bank is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can never figure out his $ exchange rate, if he uses the buying or the selling rate, because it is always absurdly better than the prevailing bank rate. He does not make any demands for payment and charges no interest on any loan, no matter how overdue the account is. On many occasions, he even writes them off. But Dad’s giving is not only spelled out in money terms. It is also spelled T-‐‑I-‐‑M-‐‑E. Being the only surviving patriarch in our clan, he is the repository of all kinds of life’s melodrama, of quarrelling siblings and threatening spouses, of ungrateful children and wayward grandchildren. Today, Dad comes with us to visit church members he doesn’t even know, and attends wakes for people he has never met. I knew then as I know now that all of the time he has is time he gives to others. The Gospel according to my father is a gospel of peace. I have no image of Dad applying the belt to our buttocks or cursing or raising his voice on my mother or on us. The most violent action I have ever seen of my Daddy was when I was about 3 or 4 years old when he gave me what might be considered a light slap on my cheek for saying the word “g-‐‑a-‐‑g-‐‑o”. And perhaps more recently, when he barred Samric from his bedroom because Sam would sing Pavarotti style way past his bedtime. This prohibition lasted, oh, 24 hours. Dad also defines peace as a clear conscience, a head-‐‑high, chin-‐‑up kind of purity to face everyone with a clean, unblemished record,
especially in public service. In an article Kuya wrote in the Philippine Star, he pointed to “linis” as Dad’s legacy to him. As a child, I remember seeing wads of money being offered to him in exchange for building contracts. You see, Dad was in charge of the Building Committee that was responsible for putting up the buildings in the Science Community in Taguig. On another occasion, a man took my mother and me for a ride in a Mercedes Benz, at the end of which he asked my mom if she would like to have it. Regardless of my mother’s answer, Dad scolded that we should not have agreed to the ride in the first place. As a child, I could not understand why he had to send expensive appliances back to contractors who were wooing bids to building projects. The only things he accepted were apples and ham on Christmas. To my child’s eyes, and even now to my adult eyes, a Mercedes would certainly have been better! Peace is also what my Dad paints during twilight and evening hours. He would sit alone in the sala, listening to evangelists or to music he likes, from Frank Sinatra to country music to the classics. Just before bed, it’s the Daily Bread. These are his hours of strength and refreshing. These are what define his sense of peace. The Gospel according to my father is a gospel of joy. It is a gospel of faith, of acceptance of all that the Lord gives him as good and something to be grateful for. It is a joy that comes from knowing that we, his children, will never ever abandon him. It is the joyful acknowledgement of each moment as a gift, whether it is cranking an arthritic knee or peering over a difficult-‐‑to-‐‑ read newspaper item, or walking up and down the driveway or exercising on the airwalker, or spraying his blooming orchid garden. It is a magic moment, a Kodak moment, every time. Because in Daddy’s
gospel, it is God who gives him everything and so everything must be good. At our family gathering to celebrate Dad’s 88th birthday in February, Pastor Gane pointed out that Dad, unlike so many other senior citizens, never spoke of his aches and pains when asked how he was. Some may say that this is because he is spared of illnesses common among both young and old, being so healthy and upright for his age. And yes, he walked in the entire Global March against Child Labor in January this year, from start to finish, and in step with everyone in the NCUC group. But to say that he is free of aches and pains is not accurate at all. Dad has been living on one lung for as long as I can remember, the other lung having been destroyed during the war. Dad is also blind in one eye, and starting on his 80th birthday, has had to use a cane occasionally to reinforce arthritic knees. But everything remains to be a cause for joy and celebration. The gospel, as my father has lived it, is a gospel of love. It is a gospel of giving, a gospel of peace, and a gospel of joy. And so when he quotes his favorite verse, Luke 6:38: “Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back,” he is also proving, in more ways than one, that the Lord rewards those like him with good health, a long life, and a peace that passes all understanding. Lest you suspect me of overselling my father, let us talk now about your father. What is your father like? What is your image of him? What is the gospel according to your father? Do you remember him with whisky in hand, or a set of cards and a pile of coins, or a cigarette between his fingers? Does he curse? Is he given to vices and womanizing? Does he abuse your mother verbally or even physically? Today, thank God for him, even for God’s perfect plan for you which includes a father such as the one you have. Find forgiveness in
your heart for him, for spotted and pockmarked as he is, Jesus died for him, too. And for those who have been gifted with a father like mine, thank God for the privilege of being his son or daughter, and for a ringside view of a life that mirrors God’s fatherly goodness. Let us pause awhile to grant forgiveness for your father, and to thank God for all our fathers, good or bad fathers that they are. (Pause.) Let me now turn to you, fathers in this congregation. What about you? What gospel are you writing? What will your sons and daughters say is the gospel according to you? Will they be able, one day, to stand at this same pulpit and joyously proclaim the gospel according to you, their father? Today, being Fathers’ Day, enjoy the attention and the pampering of your family. Be proud and grateful that you are a father. But before you go to bed tonight, will you do one thing? Will you think of what your children will say the Gospel is according to you? There is time to think about that gospel, and if you haven’t yet started living that gospel, do that starting tomorrow. Fathers’ day is not only for you in an honoring sort of way. It is also a wonderful crack at a new beginning, so that on next year’s Fathers’ Day, you might sit in that congregation and listen to your child talk about the gospel according to you.
And to all of you
wonderful fathers whom we honor today, may you all have the best Fathers’ Day ever!
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