In anticipation of Father’s Day this Sunday, I am sharing a series of reflections on my new journey of fatherhood. This reflection was written in mid-January 2017.

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It could be 4am, when I went to bed at 12.

It could be after her screams woke up the apartment complex.

It could be in the middle of a task that I desperately wanted to check off that to-do list.

Ah, there it is.

That smile.

It warms the heart.

It is everything.

*

Pope Benedict XVI wrote his first encyclical in 2005. It was titled “God is love.” This originated in the Gospel of John (1 John 4:16).  John wrote, “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”

When I first heard “God is love,” it was in a homily when the priest was discussing the encyclical. In what can often be wordy and complex writings by the head of the Catholic Church, this title provided a refreshing simplicity.

God is love, thus love is God.

When my wife and I started dating, I fell in love.

It was the only time in my life that I truly fell in love. When I was younger, this was a struggle. In looking back at my journey, it was one of my greatest blessings.

*

I had a theology professor in college who criticized the notion of “falling in love.” He felt that it implied a loss of control with a negative connotation.

I understand the point, but for at least my case, I fell into a deeper understanding of what love is as my relationship with my wife grew. In time, after the sacrament of marriage and the days that turned into months that turned into years, we fell together.

We fell in love with our daughter.

The challenge in reflecting  on fatherhood is the struggle to find the words to best capture the feeling.

This is why I am drawn to “God is love.”

God is mystical, beyond our understanding. So is love.

*

In a few hours, my daughter will turn 4 months. It is hard to believe.

What is even harder to believe is her smile.

It welcomes me early in the morning when we change her diaper, and again when the sun rises to the tune of my alarm.

That smile leaves me as I close the door as I depart for work. It welcomes me home all those hours later, and stays with me until she closes her eyes at night.

Her crib is in our room, and she will peek over from time to time to see if we are there. As her eyes shut, her smile sends us back into slumber.

That smile is genuine love. It is perhaps as close as we will get to knowing God.

*

I can experience God in many different ways.

As a man of faith, I find God in my place of worship. My Vincentian heart brings me to God in the face of the poor. As a relational being, I find God in others: stranger and friend. As an artist, I find God in creation and in creating.

As a father, I find God in my daughter.

God is love, and love is God.

When I look into her eyes, and she smiles, I am staring into the face of God.

What an honor it is to be her dad.