A recent homily here in Omaha by the great Fr Tim Gallagher blew me away. Standard fare at IPF for me.
He spoke about what he called “Father-hunger,” a coined term that, he said, emerged in the 90s.
All of us have a deep and abiding desire built into us to receive the love of our father and to find in our father his delighted joy in our love for him. That’s enough meditation for a lifetime, for me.
And these two desires we seek in a measure that exceeds any merely human capacity, especially as our desire for such an exchange of love abhors the limits of human fragility and the sundering finality of death. God alone, then, stands as the origin and goal of this ever-imperfectly realized, yet ever-abiding, desire.
He used the Genesis story of Joseph to illustrate his point, referring to that exceptionally moving scene when Joseph is reunited with his father Israel whom he had so longed to embrace for decades:
As soon as Joseph saw him, he flung himself on his neck
and wept a long time in his arms.
And Israel said to Joseph, “At last I can die,
now that I have seen for myself that Joseph is still alive.” (Gen 46:30)
Joseph’s encounter with Israel is, Fr. Tim said, an icon of our encounter with the Father in this land of exile. Joseph sobs with joy to discover again the warmth and tenderness of his father’s embrace, and is greeted by Israel’s joy in seeing his son “alive.” Joseph’s embrace is shown to be the final resting place of his father — “at last I can die.” As we long for the Father’s embrace, so dies the Father long for ours.
Then Fr. Tim sealed his one-two punch with this quote about the Son from Pope Paul VI’s Exhortation on Christian joy:
If Jesus radiates such peace, such assurance, such happiness, such availability, it is by reason of the inexpressible love by which He knows that He is loved by His Father.
This is the greatest secret to life, the key to the joyful soul who, regardless of circumstance in the vicissitudes of life, can radiate such peace, such assurance, such happiness, such availability. peace, such assurance, such happiness, such availability. And in Christ, these souls know, beyond the shadow of death, that they are loved by a God who, as St. Maximus hauntingly says, longs to be longed for, loves to be loved and desires to be desired.