What I Learned from My Father

WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY FATHER
Fr. Luke A Veronis
Father’s Day 2023

On this Father’s Day, I want to reflect on some things that I’ve learned from my beloved father.

First and foremost, I learned that my father placed God above all else in his life. In the Gospels, we hear Jesus teach, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” My father taught me throughout his life that before his wife, before his children, before his family comes God. Before any work, any hobby, or any entertainment comes God. Before any particular ideology, comes God. Our Lord makes it very clear to “Seek first, before all else, the kingdom of God.” My father taught me to sincerely and passionately seek first the Kingdom of God in life!

Throughout the Gospels, Christ reminds his followers that the greatest commandment, above all other commandments, is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Christ even warns his disciples “If you love father or mother more than me, you are not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” What a difficult passage that makes clear how God becomes the greatest priority in our lives!

My father has always reflected a deep, passionate love for God, and a commitment to following Him first and foremost in his life. Walking with Jesus Christ is our greatest call in life, he always taught me, and my father has exemplified such a blessed walk.

My father has taught me that living a life of ultimate meaning not only means loving and serving God, but this implies loving and serving others. To love God and to love our neighbor are two sides to the same coin. Our Lord Jesus taught that whatever we do to the least of my brothers and sisters, we do to Christ Himself. And one’s family is not simply one’s wife and biological children, or even extended family, but our family encompasses the world. We all have a responsibility for all people everywhere, for all whose path crosses our in life.

Our family is not only the ones around us, but the world around us. My father never was one to look at his family and even his parish as his world. Instead, he looked at the world as his family and parish. Whether through helping to create the Orthodox Christian Missions Center, which helps to share God’s love throughout the world, or overseeing for 50+ years the Crop Hunger Walk, which has helped to give millions of dollars to the hungry, he has always been concerned with the world around him. When we are filled with God’s love, we have an unlimited source of love to share with every person we meet, even with every person in the world!

Third, I have always seen a spirit of compassion, kindness, mercy, and grace toward others. Compassion implies entering into the needs of others and responding with concrete actions of love. Kindness is treating others with the respect and dignity everyone deserves as children created in the image and likeness of God. Mercy is a free gift of love given, not simply to those who deserve it, but also to those who don’t deserve it. Ultimately, this spirit of compassion, kindness, mercy, and grace are virtues that all of us receive in an unlimited way from our heavenly Father. And thus, it is only appropriate to pass them on to all those in need, to all those around us.

Fourth, my father taught me to live a life of gratitude for all God has given us, and with this understanding of gratitude comes a spirit of generosity. Gratitude leads to generosity! Out of a grateful heart we share all the blessings we’ve received from God with others, especially with those in need. One phrase I often remember my father saying is “If you err, err on the side of generosity!” My father taught me that a faithful steward generously shares God’s blessings with others.

Life is full of challenges, disappointments and struggles. My father has reminded me that God is always with us, even in the midst of whatever life brings. Don’t ever give up and give in to the crosses of this world. Christ is risen and has defeated death. He has overcome the greatest challenge, and His victory is ours. We are to walk in the hope of God, and reflect that hope wherever you go.

Along with these, my father is someone who has offered unconditional love to his children, both biological and spiritual children. He sees the good in me no matter what bad choices we may make in life, and always believes in me and empowers me to strive for and fulfill the God-given potential each of them have. Too often, there are many voices in our lives that try to tear us down, to point out our weaknesses, and to play off our insecurities. My father always encourages, builds up, and inspires me and others to dream of doing great things for the glory of God! He offers unending support and wise counsel from his own life experiences.

Finally, I will always think of my father as a man of prayer a man who communed with God daily, passionately seeking after God, talking and listening to Him, reading scripture while sitting in silence, and finding delight in dwelling in God’s presence. Jesus said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. He who abide in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:6) When I think of my father, I think of how he talked with God daily, befriending Him, and discovering the unlimited depths of His love by opening up his heart and soul to Him through intense prayer.

On this Father’s Day, I pause and reflect on my father, as I’m sure all of you do about your own father or the father-figures in your lives. We must never forget the great and serious responsibility we fathers have for our children. Fathers, and mothers (and all I said about my father apply equally to my mother!!!) are windows through which our children first understand what is important in life. As they grow, may we all remember and reflect on their lives, and may we see an example of one who seeks first God above all else, who loves others unconditionally and helps them fulfill their God-given potential, who exemplifies compassion, kindness and mercy, who radiates a spirit of gratitude which leads to generosity, who offers his unconditional love to us, and who has taught us and shown them the delight of communing with the Almighty through intimate prayer which leads us into our union with God.

God bless all the fathers and father figures to live up to their fundamental role in the lives of others. Let us thank God for our fathers, as I thank God for my own father, and wish all a most blessed and Happy Father’s Day!

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