A Father's Love

5 February 2008 Tuesday of the 4th Week in Ordinary Time
2 Samuel 18, 9 – 19, 3; Psalm 86; Mark 5, 21-43 A Father’s love

Absalom was the third son of David by Maacha. He had a sister named Thamar. Both of them were beautiful children. However, Amnon, one of David’s son, molested Thamar. And Absalom killed him. David banished him from his court for five years. When Solomon was destined to succeed David, Absalom planned a rebellion. The priests and the Levites sided with the reigning monarch, while the masses were on the side of the handsome rebel. In the first reading today, Chusai, who was loyal to David, was asked to feign allegiance to Absalom and to misdirect him. Upon retreating, Absalom mounted a mule but caught his hair on the branches of an oak or terebinth tree. He was eventually killed by Joab, David’s general, using three pikes.

David, who ordered that his son be spared, was inconsolable when he learned about Absalom’s death. His sorrow is greatly expressed in Psalms 3 and 142. David’s anguish arises not only out of the tragedy of his son’s death, but his failure as a father. This anguish is expressed in his heartbreaking cry: “My son, Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son.”

Then Joab was told that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom. Thus, the victory was turned into mourning.

Let us take two sides in our reflection. First, let us take the side of David. Many parents are struggling with rebelious children. To them, their children has withdrawn their respect because they do not obey them anymore. The rebellious child would like to do what he wants; and the parents do not have a hold on them. Parents are hurt in the process. Eventually, it would lead to disciplining the family rebel by cutting off their allowance, grounding them, or nagging them til they drop. These tactics, from my experience, aggravates matters. The more the child retaliates and plans rebellion like Absalom. Usually, the child has a good intention --- like Absalom’s love for Thamar. He has, however, erred in his killing of his half-brother Amnon. A large part therefore is in one’s parenting: explaining to children why a certain action is unacceptable. David wept because he has failed as a father.

On the other hand, the rebellious child is influenced by many unexpressed hurt feelings caused by their parents or siblings. Sibling rivalry and favoritism are special issues. Absalom was jealous of Solomon who will inherit the throne. Often rebeliousness is an attention-getting device.

One thing, however, is clear. Our parents are givens in life. We cannot opt for another parent. Whatever way they take care of us --- and some of their strategies we may not agree with --- is what they knew and learned from their childhood. Our parents’ love for us is beyond doubt. David genuinely was full of remorse for he loved Absalom, despite the hurt Absalom inflicted on him. Filipinos have a way of saying this: “Tatay mo pa rin siya; Anak mo pa rin siya.” (No matter what, they are still your father/child.”

The same thing with divine sorrow for our human sins which takes remedial action through Christ. Out of deep sorrow for our sins, God, our Father, sends his only son. Whatever happens, we remain his children. And whatever happens, God is always our Father. Psalm 103,13 says, “Like a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them.”

In the Gospel, Jairus was a synagogue official. But he would exhaust all means, including lowering down his pride, just to get his daughter healed. So too with God: if it needs the sacrifice of His only Son to redeem us --- his rebellious and unworthy children --- He would.

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