I’m not much of a music listener, but it seems every year there are a few songs which seem to catch my attention and stick with me for years to come. One of those songs is country artist Rodney Atkin’s 2006 hit song Watching You. Rodney wrote this song, which portrays two different instances of a son learning from his father’s actions, after having to explain to his own son Elijah that he shouldn’t sing his dad’s hit song If you’re going through hell at school.
In the first verse, the son is sitting in the passenger seat eating a happy meal. When dad hits the breaks, the boy spills his food all over himself and says a four-letter word. Surprised the father asks his son where he learned that word to which the boy responds “I’ve been watching you. Dad, ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you… I wanna do everything you do. So I’ve been watching you” In the second verse the father catches his son kneeling beside his bed to pray and so he asks his son where he learned to pray to which the boy once again responds “I’ve been watching you. Dad, ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you… I wanna do everything you do. So I’ve been watching you”
In many way’s Rodney Atkin’s hit song is similar to Jesus’ parable about the mustard seed in today’s Gospel. While this particular parable is often attributed to the growth of our faith, the nice thing about parables is that they can have numerous meanings, all of which are true and all of which can speak to us at different times in our lives. So today as our country rightfully takes the day to honor our father’s; might I suggest that today’s parable about the mustard seed speaks in a special way to fathers? Much like the mustard seed, children start small, but if they are nourished, encouraged, protected and guided they grow into the greatness of a saint. Today’s parable reminds fathers that their children are their greatest gift and greatest responsibility.
We can never forget that “for a man to generate a child is above all to receive it from God: it is a matter of welcoming from God as a gift the child that is generated. For this reason, the child belongs first to God and then to their parents.” Children are entrusted to the care of their parents and their parents will be responsible for how they raise their children.
Recently I was speaking with a friend who is preparing for marriage and while he is not worried about marriage he is very scared about the prospect of becoming a dad. He knows fatherly love will help him be a good father, but he feels totally unprepared to be a father to a 21st-century child. He wonders about basic things that we never had to worry about while growing up, like how to parent a child with a smartphone and how to keep his child safe and grounded in such a fast-paced culture. Let’s be honest, being a father in the 21st century is no easy task. Father’s often have to work long hours to provide for their children which often leaves them with little time or energy to spend time with their children. Children often take their fathers for granted and fathers are under such pressure to make their children successful that they are often tempted to mold them into what they want their children to be while completely missing their child’s uniqueness. Yet amidst all the difficulties of being a 21st century father, today’s 2nd reading reminds us that we walk by faith, not by sight, and so we acknowledge that with God’s grace anything is possible.
So, as we gather on this Father’s Day I think today’s parable of the mustard seed reminds us of 5 basic truths of fatherhood. First, the best way for a father to love his children is to love, honor and respect their mother. Second, the best gift a father can give his children is a sense of safety and security as they grow. Third, it is more important for fathers to give their time than their money. Fourth, it is essential for fathers to encourage their children’s own interests instead of forcing them to share theirs. Lastly, it is more important to be respected by one’s children then to be liked by them.
Today’s parable of the mustard seed is a reminder to every father of the awesome responsibility he has to be a father. As father’s nurture their children helping them grow into saints they can never forget that Rodney Atkins in right; our actions speak volumes to our kids. Children see everything their fathers do and will often imitate them. While children will always love their mothers, they will want to be like their fathers. Through their actions, fathers can nourish their children, help them grow, at times prune them to help them form large branches and then joyful watch how others come to dwell in their shade. So father’s if your children are honest they will say “I’ve been watching you. Dad, ain’t that cool? I’m your buckaroo, I wanna be like you… I wanna do everything you do. So, I’ve been watching you.” But what are they seeing when they watch you?
 Karol Wojtyla. The Meaning of Vocation. United States: Scepter Publishers, 1997. Pg 36.