The meaning of fatherhood is leading those entrusted to you on a path to greater joy, a path that helps them become aware that they are loved, that they are sons and daughters.

What is the only true, great joy in life, that which renders us certain, that makes us enthusiastic protagonists of history in the world? It’s the joy that is born from the awareness that we are loved, wanted, desired, that is born from the certainty of being sons and daughters. What is, on the other hand, the one, true, great temptation of man? Thinking that life, this great promise given to us, is an illusion, is a huge hoax. It’s the temptation of believing that the meaning of life is nothing, that behind everything is a void. The great poet Eugenio Montale aptly expresses this temptation when he imagines that one morning, turning around suddenly while walking, he is surprised by the nothingness behind him. This is our temptation, and it is also the mother of every sin: thinking that everything is contrived, and that God is an imposter, an enemy. And thus we discover ourselves orphans, without a father. Genesis describes the origin of sin, born as a consequence of this doubt that has slipped into the heart of the man and the woman. It’s a doubt in God, or a doubt that he, who should be our father, is, in reality, an imposter, someone who wants to cheat us, jealous of his power over reality. The first consequence of sin is fear (I hid myself because I was afraid, Gen 3:10), which becomes fear of death and of life, fear of sickness, of pain, of solitude.

This is why the greatest sin that adults can commit is that of causing doubt in the little ones, making them feel they are children of no one, alone and prey to the violence of the world. This is a sin that becomes even more serious when he who should be a father reveals all of his falsehood and violence. From where can we start again? From Christ, who came to the world to announce that we are not orphans, and that God is our true Father. As Pope Francis said, “In Him is offered the fatherhood of God which is never taken away.” The greatest sin, then, consists of negating Christ and the truth that He has brought. As Benedict XVI said several years ago, “The scandal is to destroy in these people the faith, the light of Christ, to take Christ away from them, and so God. One can do this either with intellectual arrogance, which can present faith in a ridiculous light, or with other means of the powers of this world. This is the real sin: to destroy in men communion with Christ, to take the divine light away from them.” And he added, “If the gravest sin is to destroy the divine light in a man, to take Christ away from him and thus God, then the greatest possibility of acting from a divine viewpoint is to proclaim Christ, to help man meet him, to give others the light of God.”

How could we not be discouraged by the continuous betrayals of those called to be educators and teachers, starting with those of us who are priests? How can we return to generating faith in those whom God has entrusted to us? By returning to our vocation as fathers, which traces its origins to the mission of Christ. “Children look at us and ask us for a sign” sings Claudio Chieffo in “Il viaggio” (“The Journey”). The children and young people who are entrusted to us turn to us and ask, once again, that we be fathers. They ask for signs, proof that there is still value in trusting another, that they can know they are children and not orphans, so that one day they will be fathers and mothers, too. They ask that our life be a reverberation of Christ’s, that through us they can experience the truth of the message that He has made to the world. And they make us rediscover our vocation each day, that of giving them Christ, because he who does not give Christ, gives too little.

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