Twelfth Sunday: Our Father Will Never Leave Us
Although last week was Father’s Day, I want to tell you a story about a Father that really fits today’s readings. I believe Scott Hahn tells this story, but I am not sure it is uniquely his.
The story takes place on December 7, 1988 in Spitak, Armenia. A horrible earthquake had just struck, and a frenzied businessman ran from his office to his little boy’s school. His son was a kindergartner. He had dropped him off at school about four hours earlier and had said to him, as he said to him every day, “You be a good boy, and remember, you father loves you and will always care for you.” And now an earthquake had hit. The initial reports were that there was destruction in the area of his son’s school. When the man reached the school, it was a pile of debris. Parents were standing around the rubble wailing. The man was in a panic, but he was not in shock. He would find his son. He tried to figure the outline of the school and where his son’s class would have been. Then he started digging, digging with his bare hands. Some people came to help him. He dug for two hours and was soaked with sweat, tears, grime and his own blood from glass shards. He took off his shirt, and kept digging. The people with him gave up. The man kept digging, digging. Four hours, six hours, digging, digging, hearing nothing, finding nothing. Some more people came by to help him, but thy gave up after only twenty minutes. They tried to convince him that his effort was useless. He needed to let go of his son. He must have other children who would need him at home. But he wouldn’t stop. Ten hours, twelve hours. People began to ignore him. “He is mad with grief,” they said. “It will run its course. He’ll give up.” But he didn’t give up. Fourteen hours, sixteen hours. Then the man moved a large piece of plaster and heard the quiet call of a weak child. He yelled for help, “I’ve found someone,” and people came and removed another layer of debris. And there was his son, huddled together with two of his classmates, a little boy and a little girl. They pulled the children from the rubble and gave them oxygen and water. As they were about to take them to the hospital, the little boy said to his friends, “I told you my father would never leave me.”
Our Father, God our Father, will never leave us. He pulls us out of the rubble of life. He fights the forces of death, and He conquers them. He sacrifices His Son for us. And we look on Him who has been pierced. And different from the people of the first reading, instead of mourning we say, “I told you my Father would be here for me.”
And then we listen. We listen to the Lord telling us in the Gospel reading, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
And we realize, what that father in Armenia did for his son, never giving up on saving his child, was a reflection of what we are called to do for the Kingdom of God. For just as our Heavenly Father God will never give up on us, we cannot give up on serving Him. We cannot give up on fighting for His Kingdom, even if that means our personal suffering. And this might take tears, and sweat, and even blood. It certainly will demand sacrificing our popularity with the in crowd. It certainly will demand our being a social outcast, the only one who is saving himself or herself for marriage, the only one who doesn’t smoke pot, the only one who has never been drunk, the only one who would rather worship than party. But it is all worth it. The pain is all minor in comparison to the greater joy of serving God.
And when we make this sacrifice, when we commit to the Life of Jesus Christ, we will free others from the devastation of sin, from the rubble of human frailty. For the life of the committed Christian is one of following our Savior in sacrificing ourselves for the Kingdom of God. The life of the committed Christian is one of following our Savior to joy. We receive a portion of this joy now as we live our lives with meaning and purpose, committed to Christ. We receive the fullness of this joy in the next life as we join the angels and saints in the Eternal Swirl of the Love of God.
“I told you my father will never leave me.” He will never leave us. We pray today that we might never leave Him.