Today is being celebrated as the Father’s Day or Fathers’ Day in different countries of the world. This usually falls on the third Sunday of the month of July. In different countries like, the USA, Canada, UK, France, India, China, Bangladesh, Japan, the Philippines, South Africa and many other Anglo-Francophone countries, this day is observed to celebrate fathers, fathering and fatherhood. Fathers’ Day complements Mothers’ Day. Children owe their lives and existence to both their parents. Both parents with child or children constitute a family. A month ago I wrote a piece for the Daily Sun about honouring mothers. Father’s Day is celebrated to honour fathers, fatherhood, paternity and, symbolically and purportedly, all the male members in the human family. As for mothers this is children’s utmost commitment for their fathers’ profoundest contribution in their lives.
There are great teachings in the Scriptures of every religions concerning respects for and obedience to parents. “My son, keep your father’s commands and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you are awake, they will speak to you. For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life”. “The father of a righteous man has great joy; he who has a wise son delights in him,” says the ancient Hebrew sage (Proverbs 23:24-25).As stewards of the family and society, we affirm that the family is one of the richest gifts of God, the first unit of society and humanity at large. God designed the hetero-sexual marriage. We also celebrate that we are not only members of our families but also members of the household of God and humanity. Thus we commit ourselves to the renewal of family as a loving, healing, supporting and praying community we renew our commitment to honour and respect the authority of God, parents and society, and dedicate ourselves to the renewal of family and society thorough spiritual restoration.
In our modern societies children observe and even celebrate this day as a mark of their love and commitment to and as a mark of their gratefulness and love for their beloved fathers. But this honour and love for them should not be specially limited to one particular day. It is a life-time vocation and commitment. Blessed are those that really bear this in mind. However, we are also given to understand that this day is getting commercialised. This happens with other occasions and festivals, religious or social, too in all societies. The less the transcendental relationship between father and children thus gets tarnished the better it is and will be for the human family and its future. A father is the embodiment of affection and love and care for his child or children. The concept of fatherhood is of paramount importance in our time. There are evidences of great lack in this. There is no greater duty or obligation than filial piety. Honouring and obeying our parents is such important. Many families in our time are becoming a fracture unit because such family values. In both ancient and modern times the father has been playing the role of spiritual and religious leadership of the family.
Exodus 21:15, 17 records some of the Mosaic laws thus: “Anyone who attacks his father or his mother must be put to death. ... Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.” Of course parents are enjoined sacred responsibilities and bounden duties to perform towards the good and proper growth of their God-given children. Children are the heavenly heritage and the most precious gifts and rewards for the parents. Fathers must take care against pressing their children to overachieve in anything. They must not irritate children. Every parent should take it as his holy responsibility to prepare a proper conducive environment where their children will be able to grow properly. The father in the family has to be real ‘model’ before his children. They must be able to command obedience and respect from his children. This is of crucial importance.
Today we live in a world where the pristine values of family life need to be considered anew. Husbands and wives, parents and children all need to seriously dedicate themselves to build and nurture families where life and attitude to life are given utmost priority and the reciprocal filial obligations are respected and fulfilled. What ideal parents do or ought to do? They love, and provide for all their children’s needs; they serve as models before them and mentor them for their steady growth; they teach, instruct and disciple them. They do not exasperate children to overachieve in anything. And lastly, parents ought to dedicate their children to God. Yet, how much many of us do internalise and practically manifest our love and rightly or justly treat our mothers in our day to day life. It is our utterly regrettable experience that some people do not live up to the norm. Many children do not care for their elderly parents as they should even those who are able to do so from the material point of view. There are those who are not able to do so because of lack of socio-economic ability due to poverty even when they have the proper mind-set for and genuine love for their parents. The ancient adage has it to say: “A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother”; and, “If a man curses his father or mother, his lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness” (Proverbs 15:20; 20:20).
We all must remember that it is not a hard matter to beget children. Even extremely foolish man can beget children after children: but it not any easy matter to be a good and responsible father or parent. It is a life-long endeavour and trusteeship. The obligations of family life are reciprocal. It is more so than any other area in social life. Respect and obedience must find their roots in genuine love between and among the members of the family. Obedience is one of the most obvious dictates of nature. Even irrational creatures are obedient to their parents by instinct, and follow the signs of their parents.
Taunting and neglecting parents for their limitations of any kind – financial, intellectual, social, and physical and so on – is really highly objectionable. In a transitional society like ours where most young people live away from their parents, who are left in their rural homes and habitations parents often are seen to be neglected by their so-called educated children, and especially by their daughters-in-laws and sons-in-laws, and etc. This is rather sad in the lives of many people having rural background who rear their children, educate them and send them to live in cities, but many such sons and their wives disdain their elderly and helpless parents and parents-in-laws. Nothing regrettable can be than such a situation. There are numberless exceptions, of course.In many Western societies today there are people, who call their parents by their names. I was very surprised when I first heard this in my student life in the U.K. already during the late seventies of the last century! The religious injunction: “Honour your parents” is very holistic in meaning and implication. But in the name of human freedom and individualism many forget such transcendental values as that ought to be upheld and enshrined in family living and home life.
The writer is a Christian theology teacher and a social worker.