In The Father’s Name

Daniel Day-Lewis starred in a 1993 movie entitled “In the Name of the Father” about a young man who is sent by his dad to carry out a particular, seemingly impossible, task and is wrongfully accused of a crime.  To save his father from being murdered, he takes blame for the crime and is imprisoned, along with his dad.  When the father dies in custody, he takes over his dad’s quest for justice.  As Catholics pray “in the name of the Father” and as Jesus came to dwell among us “in the name of the Father,” we are left wondering how to best honor our dads and uphold their name, especially when injustice appears to prevail.  When we contemplate the injustice of Christ’s death and inhuman torture He endured, we get elevated from our human experience to an incomprehensible divine level, like that which some children touch through blessed interactions they experienced with their own father.

Dan Fogelberg, in 1981, wrote and sang Leader of the Band as a tribute to his dad who was in a failing condition before dying the following year.  His father, described as a carpenter’s son and sculptor of souls, had been a band director for high school and college musicians; Dan was the youngest child in his family and, as a little tyke, was allowed by his papa to step in and “conduct” the students by waving a baton as they roused fans at games or pep rallies.  The lyrics are touching: “The leader of the band is tired, and his eyes are growing old but his blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul.  My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man.  I’m just a living legacy to the leader of the band.”  Though the father’s demise is central to the message, it is the spirit he leaves—rather than the death he endures—that is at the core.  Blood runs through progeny, whether producing music or children or an attitude that inspires; and sometimes father and son are so similar that the blood is very thick.  Fogelberg wants nothing more than to honor his father by living virtuously and following his exemplar direction.  Jesus wants the same.

From Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” in the early 70s to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Someday” in the last decade, we are struck periodically, through music, by fatherhood’s joy, struggle, achievement, challenge, happiness, regret, sacrifice, and grace-filled moments.  As we enter the second half of Lent, we are encouraged to reflect more deeply on Jesus’ tribute to His Father.  Wanting to fulfill the particular, seemingly impossible, task He was given by His dad, He got wrongfully accused of a crime.  To save His Father’s good name, He was taken into custody and sentenced to death.  He left His band of brothers and us with a legacy, a mission to complete what He didn’t get the chance to finish, that includes His symphonic quest for justice.  But rather than justice in the contemporary sense, we are to seek justice in the biblical sense: not getting even but getting right.  We are called to get right with God and, through that harmony, get right with one another.  As His blood runs from Calvary through salvation history so does it run through us, much as His melodious Spirit runs through our soul.  We are called to be His living legacy.  As such, everything we do is to be done in the name of the Father.

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