If we ask ourselves why we celebrate Father's Day, the easy answer may be that, along with Mother's Day, it helps us honor our parents, which is the instruction in the Fifth Commandment. Stripped of the trappings that make these days commercial extravaganzas, that might pass for a reasonable answer.
But things have changed since the holidays were established. Back then, parental roles within the traditional nuclear family were seen as clearly separate, requiring different skills and interests.
Today, these roles can't be as clearly separated. They have become intertwined as a result of economic and social developments such as less stable employment, increased divorce rates, and the growth of extended families with mixed parental loyalties.
Many mothers, in the pursuit of their careers, have to depend on the father or other caregivers. Some must work in response to growing financial needs. And some have moved away from the tradition of separate roles and simply share breadwinning and housekeeping duties while jointly caring for their children.
When we think also of single parents raising a family alone, and of children who have lost their parents, it may help to ask ourselves, Who is the father in Father's Day?
When a man and a woman conceive a child, they become a father and mother, but that does not fully define them any more than it can fully define God, the Father and Mother of us all. Existence would be bleak if God's interest in us ended with the creating. It doesn't, even though it may seem hidden sometimes by the complexities and tragedies we face.
Having a child is only the beginning of a responsibility to love, protect, nourish, inspire, educate, and discipline those in our care. This is what God does – and what human fathering should and can be.
Sure, there are fathers who evade that obligation and others who, through no fault of their own, can't meet it. But independent of the presence or absence of a human father, the one Father and Mother of all is fathering and mothering every child.
The fatherliness of God is an invariable force for good that cannot be circumvented or deflected from His purpose, which is for His will to be done in earth as it is in heaven. His will is to make apparent the spiritual completeness, including happy and fulfilling relationships among His children, of the creation He declared finished and good (see Gen. 1:31).
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, wrote: "Jesus acknowledged no ties of the flesh. He said: 'Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven....' He recognized Spirit, God, as the only creator, and therefore as the Father of all" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 31). This command takes away no honor due to a faithful human father but recognizes that the attributes of human fatherliness come from a divine source.
To lay aside the family conflicts and resentments that would blot out awareness of Love's government, and open our consciousness to the ever-present ministering Christ, is to feel God's fatherliness guiding us toward the secure and peaceful family and home we seek.
Imbued with Christ-inspired willingness to view creation from God's standpoint rather than from that of the material senses, God's fatherliness makes itself known not as an abstract religious concept but as the tangible presence of the qualities that constitute a home governed by God. This home is supplied with all the necessities of life, from safety and nourishment to the shared joy that makes it the "dearest spot on earth," (Science and Health, p. 58).
This is the true Father we can honor on Father's Day.
In the place where it was said
unto them, Ye are not my people;
there shall they be called
the children of the living God. Romans 9:26