You Will Be My Witnesses: A 40-Day Spiritual Journey for Catholic Men - Days 1-10

Introduction...

What follows is a men's 40-day devotional written to encourage men as they prepare for the October 21, 2017 Connecticut Catholic Men's Conference...

What does it mean to be a witness for Christ? Is it about spreading the Word of God to others so that they too may know the joy of belonging to the Body of Christ or living a holy life free from mistakes and sin? Is witnessing a task – something we do – or an integrated lifestyle? Is it both, or neither, or even something more? These are important questions.

For Catholic men, these questions take on even greater significance. We are called to be salt and light to the world, to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth, to serve one another in love. We are part of a Body of believers whose mission is to take the Good News of Jesus into the world. How we carry out our faith as men matters. It never seems to feel easy to follow Jesus; yet He has told us that His yoke is easy and his burden light (Matthew 11:30). The key is in understanding what it means to be a Catholic man of faith, what it means to have been called by God, redeemed by Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out that faith in a hostile world.

These days, the world has blurred the lines of what it means to be a man. Modern television programs present men as incompetent weaklings, while modern commercials present men as strong, beer-drinking, tool-carrying, fast-and-lose players. In truth, neither of these pictures is truly accurate. Real men – as least as far as Catholicism is concerned – are both strong and meek, courageous and in touch with their hearts, ready to face the challenges of life and ready to surrender to the will of the Father. Men who are truly followers of Jesus are sold out to the cause of Christianity, determined to stay the course, and dependent on Christ to supply the strength they need.

Living a life that integrates our faith into all we do presents a challenge, but it is not impossible when God is on our side and we have brothers who will stand by us to help us stay strong. We have the Living Word to sharpen us, the sacraments to sustain us, and our brothers in arms to lift us up and hold us accountable. But we must accept the challenge and run the race that has been laid out for us. This means, setting aside time for prayer and Bible reading, participating in the sacraments and the life of the Church, and seeking out other men to walk the road to heaven with us.

Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” This is both a promise and a command. God will provide the power to accomplish the work He calls us to do and He sends us forth into the world as witnesses – from our homes and communities to our country and beyond to places where there are souls longing to know the love of Christ. This we do not just with our words, but with our actions as well. A true witness is one who leads others to Jesus, and walks with those same people as they journey toward heaven. And a manly witness answers that call as God has gifted him to do so. 

Over the next 40 days, this men’s devotional will offer Scripture and commentary to help you on this important journey of faith. I invite you to use this time to draw closer to Christ, to get real with who you are, and to make a deeper commitment to live out what it means to be a Catholic man. Share these devotionals with your brothers. Talk about them and how you can apply the words to your lives. Make this a time of deeper communion with your heavenly Father. Seek out the Son and embrace the cross and the power of His resurrection. And let the Holy Spirit continue to guide and strengthen you as you carry out God’s call to love the world as he has loved you.

God bless.


Day 1: Man the Cultivator

The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. The Lord God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die. (Genesis 2:15-17)

To be a man means many things. To be a Catholic man means even more. Our faith challenges us to be good husbands and fathers; wise stewards of our time, talent, and treasure; and spiritual leaders in our homes and our churches. In the beginning, we were called to be cultivators, to care for the world we had been given. Adam was placed in the Garden and given charge of it. He was to work the soil, to nurture the plants, and to be fruitful as a man as he made the Garden fruitful. He was to love and protect his wife and his children and live out the will of his heavenly Father. But Adam sinned by disobeying the Word of God concerning the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. His act of pride, selfishness, and rebellion led to sweat, sadness, and sinful living. It led to death and exclusion from the Kingdom of Heaven. Because of the Original Sin of the one man, the first Adam, our daily toil is difficult and we become weary doing it. Our original call to cultivate this world has been corrupted and our labor comes at the price of our sorrow and our sweat.

But because of the second Adam, Jesus Christ, we who believe have been raised to new life (1 Corinthians 15:45-49). Our labors upon this earth have been given a new purpose and we have received the promise of incorruptibility, knowing that one day, we will once again become true cultivators in the Kingdom of Heaven, where our burdens will be light and pleasurable once more. And because Jesus told us that the Kingdom of Heaven is among us now, living itself out in our very lives (Luke 17:21), we know that our efforts as men can indeed bear eternal fruit for the Kingdom of God.

So what does being a cultivator in today’s world look like? I would like to suggest a few ideas:

1)    Being a cultivator means taking responsibility for our world. That world includes our wives and children and our extended families. It includes our church and workplace. And it includes our sphere of influence wherever we go. We need to nurture our relationships, work as unto the Lord, and build the Kingdom with our words and deeds. Our every action should share the truth of the Gospel and the love of Christ with a broken world. We cannot sit back and watch the world fall apart without acting on behalf of Jesus in witnessing to the power of the Gospel.
2)    Being a cultivator means being a man of integrity. We need to be honest and fair in all our dealings with others, speak boldly about injustices we see, and look for solutions to problems that are centered on the faith to which we belong. What we experience on Sunday should be lived out every day of the week. There should not be a difference between our “faith lives” and our “everyday lives.” Integrity should be at the core of all we are and all we do. I should be so much a part of us that every word and action becomes a reflection of the perfect God we follow.
3)    Being a cultivator means submitting in humility to God’s call on our lives. As we work the soil of humanity, looking for growth, we need to work the soil of our own hearts as well, yielding to the Law of Love, and living our Catholic faith knowing that we are sinners saved by grace who are members of the Body of Christ. Our own brokenness should shape our perspective on the broken world; our giftedness should lead us to right living and thanksgiving for all we have been given; and our need should connect us to the Church that Christ has established for our welfare.
4)    Being a cultivator means being a sacramental man. We cannot become the men we are meant to be without our lifeline to Christ. We have been baptized into the Church, Confirmed in our faith, nourished by the Eucharist, and freed from sin in the Confessional. We live out the bonds of matrimony or priesthood, modeling our marriages and our ministry after the marriage of Christ to His Church. The sacraments should be our foundation, our strength, and our unity; and as we participate in them, we join with all men of faith, carrying out the will of Jesus Christ our head.
5)    Being a cultivator means turning our gaze toward heaven. This world is full of beauty and purpose, but it is not all there is. By our Baptism we have been seated with Christ in the heavens, and all our living should be moving us along the path to Paradise. We should be spending time with our Savior in daily prayer, growing in our study of God’s Word and our rich traditions, spreading the Gospel to the nations, carrying out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, and turning ourselves into saints – day by blessed day.

Today, take time to consider what it means to be a cultivator in God’s Kingdom. Determine to spend more time in prayer, study, and worship to grow in your faith. Look for opportunities to interact with your brothers, building one another up, carrying one another’s burdens, and holding one another accountable before God. Love your families and your communities with the same uncompromising love that Christ has poured out onto you. Look for ways to make this world a better place by being a man who represents Christ and His Church well. And look forward to all the blessings that are to come in God’s good time!

Connecting to the Theme: Discipleship is a journey. Begin today to see your life as an ever-unfolding walk along the path to perfection. Let every word, every action, every step along this journey be a shining witness of what it means to be a Catholic man who loves the Lord with all his heart, mind, and soul!

Question for Journaling: What are some ways I can connect with my faith, my family, and my brothers in order to become a better cultivator in God’s Kingdom?

God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply;
fill the earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:28a) 

 


Day 2: Loving the Word

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

As men, we cannot become true witnesses of the Gospel without growing in our knowledge of God’s Word. The Bible is God’s love letter to humanity, the inerrant, perfect, and powerful revelation of Himself to His children. The Scriptures are our guide, our strength, our power, and our peace. They are the foundation for all we believe, the rock upon which our Church teachings and traditions rest. The Catechism of the Church teaches us that in the Scriptures God reveals Himself completely, that God is the true author of the words we read, and that the Bible teaches us God’s truth without error. 

God expresses the nature of His Word within the pages of Scripture. Consider the following verses:

1)    The Word is our hope. For whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, that by endurance and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4) 
2)    The Word nourishes us. He (Jesus) said in reply, “It is written: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.’”(Matthew 4:4)
3)    The Word cuts deep into our souls. Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
4)    The Word is forever. The grass withers, the flower wilts, but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
5)    The Word lights our way. Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)

Paul describes the Word as a sword, a weapon of righteousness (Ephesians 6:17). With it we take our stand against the enemy and bring healing to a lost world. We carry comfort, clarity, truth, and teaching to fellow believers. Armed with God’s Word, we become equipped for every good work, ready to give an answer to a weary world for the hope we have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Through the Church we have secure and solid teaching on how to interpret the Bible so that we may use it in our daily lives. 

As Catholic men we are called to let the Word of God penetrate deep into the heart of who we are so that it may cut out the corruption of the world and bring healing to our souls. We should hunger for the Word and ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with understanding and a desire to grow in wisdom as we grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures. This means taking time every day to sit in our places of prayer to read and meditate on the message within the passages of the Bible. We need to apply the Word of God to our lives. The Scriptures should guide our actions, fill us with hope, and inspire us to love others with the love of Christ. We should also read the Word with other Catholic men, so that we may grow as brothers and build up the Body of Christ. Each Sunday at Mass, we should cherish the Liturgy of the Word as it leads us to the Table of the Lord where the Eucharist may feed us and send us forth into the world to witness to the lost with our lives. 

Connecting to the Theme: We need to develop a love of Scripture that becomes a passion burning within us. As we read the Bible, we should be digging deeply into the words, allowing the Spirit to speak to us, drawing strength from the Church’s wisdom, and allowing the Word to shape our actions that day. It should become so much a part of us, that the Scriptures should be ready at the tip of our tongues so that we may defend our faith. We must remember that the teachings of the Bible provide the power that moves our hands and feet in the service of Christ.

Question for Journaling: What kind of plan can I establish for daily Bible reading and ongoing Bible study; and how can I apply the truths I learn to my daily witness to others?

‘One does not live by bread alone,  but by every word
that comes forth from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4b) 

 


Day 3 – A Question of Discipline

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:1-5)

A real man is a disciplined man. Discipline is related to the word “disciple.” In order to be a true disciple of Jesus, we must be willing to follow the discipline of our Catholic faith. What this discipline entails is both intricately complex and surprisingly simple. It is a calling on our lives that we answer with the commitment of a trained soldier and the earnestness of an obedient child. It involves all areas of our lives: Christian morality, spiritual growth, physical conditioning, personal responsibility, and communal loyalty. It is woven into every fiber of our being. It cannot be compartmentalized into our Sunday best and our weekly weaknesses. In all we say and do, we must be disciples to the core.

What specifically does this discipline entail? Consider the following ideas:

1)    Discipline is a lifestyle, not a task. We cannot force our faith; nor can we put it into little “to-do lists” of activities like church attendance, prayer, kind speech, and good works. Though we need to work at our Catholic faith, often times pushing ourselves to be consistent about our actions, true discipline integrates these activities so intimately into our lives that they become as natural as breathing and as necessary as a heartbeat. When others see us, they should see men filled with the Spirit of Christ.
2)    Discipline understands our limitations. Far too often, we look at our manly endeavors and our clean living and think that it is something we have done on our own. The reality, however, is that without the grace of God empowering us toward perfection, we would never be able to be men after God’s own heart. Knowing who we are before God brings humility and allows God to be the author of our daily lives.
3)    Discipline surrenders to the pain of God’s pruning. A skilled vine dresser knows that in order to promote the growth of the grape vine, he must prune away the deadwood and lift up the drooping branches toward the sun. The discipline of our faith often involves sacrifice and pain. We must be willing to allow the Divine Gardener to remove our sinful habits and cultivate new growth through the light of His love. Only in this way, can we bear fruit and pour ourselves out to the waiting world.
4)    Discipline is ongoing and uncompromising. As men, we face temptations every day. We all too easily fall into the sins of selfishness and pride. Like a vine that wraps itself around a health tree, a small indiscretion or “harmless” sin can slowly and almost imperceptibly take hold of us until it begins to block the light of Christ and choke the life out of us. But by God’s grace, we can overcome these sins by resisting the devil’s temptations and fleeing the habits of the flesh the moment they manifest themselves in our lives. This commitment to stand firm against sin develops a habit that becomes stronger and more stable the more we continue it.
5)    Discipline allows us to be ever ready to begin again. When we fall – and all of us fall – the more disciplined we have become, the more easily we are set back on the path of righteousness. Too many men take an all-or-nothing approach to their failures. They see any break with God through sin as canceling all that God has done in them, instead of understanding that our Christian walk is a series of stumbles and sturdy steps to the place where we lay down our lives for the Lord. If Jesus could stumble on the way to Calvary yet pick Himself up and continue the journey to the cross, we can do no better than to take up our cross and follow Him in faith.

Let us summarize what discipline is by considering the story of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. It tells of a young prince who was a faithful gardener on a tiny planet where seeds would blow in with the wind. Some were innocent and became beautiful roses, but others were dangerous and grew into giant baobabs. The prince knew that when a baobab first appeared, it would look as harmless as a rose; but if neglected for too long, it could grow so large that it would engulf and tear apart his tiny planet with its huge roots. “A baobab,” he said, “is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet. It bores clear through it with its roots. And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces.” In the words of the Little Prince, it is all a “question of discipline.” And so it is with our own daily Catholic walk. We need to remember to rid our lives of the roots of sin and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in our souls.

Connecting to the Theme: A disciplined life – a life of prayer, sacrament, accountability, and sacrificial living – is the most powerful witness a man can bring to the world. The spoken words of the Gospel are powerful, but it is our sold-out, deeply-committed, and holy lives that help to connect those words to the flesh-and-blood reality of what Jesus Christ can do in the heart of a real man.

Question for Journaling: What areas of my life need improvement and how can I develop a more disciplined approach to my Catholic Faith?

Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7) 

 


Day 4 – Fight the Good Fight

But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge [you] before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ that the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal power. Amen. (1Timothy 6:11-16)

Are we ready to take on the world as witnesses for Christ? Are we carrying out a regular, consistent, and comprehensive spiritual “training program” in order to fight the good fight – to compete in the sacred Olympics of the Christian life? While some may believe that a life with Christ should be easy, that is not what Jesus told us. He commanded us to take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24-26), being prepared to lose one’s life in order to save it. He told us that He did not come to bring peace but rather a sword (Matthew 10:34). To the carnal ear, that can sound like a difficult and unpleasant road to travel.

But there is another way. Men of God see the Catholic life as a challenge to face with faith, a holy conditioning program that prepares us to contend with the struggles of life and meet them head on with an expectation that borders on ecstasy and inexpressible joy. The life lessons learned from the Scriptures, the strengthening power of the sacraments, and the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit which manifests in our everyday experiences, rather than defeating us, pushes us along that holy path up the mountain to victory and perfection. Like an athlete running his race, cheered on by a host of celestial witnesses, we are energized by our trials and tribulations because they train us up in the way of our faith.

What are the benefits of competing well for the faith? Consider the following:

1)    We don’t sweat the little things. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, we are not to worry about what we are to eat or wear, but are to consider the birds of the air and the flowers of the field and yield to the perfect will of the Father (Matthew 6:25-34). God cares about every little detail of His world, and that includes the many things that cause us concern. Peace comes when we seek His Kingdom first.
2)    We live the example of Christ in all we do. As we contend for our faith, we connect to the awesome truth that Jesus walked the road to the crucifixion perfectly, offering His live on our behalf. His words and deeds are the purest testimony of God’s love for sinful man. As we grasp this reality we are able to drop to our knees in awe and wonder, and yet rise up to walk the same road toward heaven, following in the steps of our blessed Savior.
3)    We join with the Body and build one another up. This daily spiritual workout allows us to become more keenly aware of the part we play in the Body because it connects us to our brothers and sisters and the mission of the local, regional, and world-wide Church. We take great joy in our desire to participate in shaping the thing that has shaped us as we minister to those who share this walk of faith with us.
4)    We endure, we build character, and we hope (Romans 5:3-5). Our trials condition us to persevere, and as we work through the trials, we form proven character and discover the hope that connects us to the realms of heaven. Our struggles strengthen our spiritual muscles until we become rock-solid faithful men who in turn offer to walk the road to perfection with others who are lost and seeking the Savior.
5)    We look forward to a Kingdom of light and love. Because we become spiritually trained in our faith, we keep the commands of God and are free from the stain of sin as we wait for the Second Coming of the Lord. Our souls are being fashioned for the beauty and perfection of heaven, where we will stand before the pure light of Jesus, the One who brought us salvation and who deserves all the honor and glory.

Life is certainly a battle, a struggle, and a challenge; and yet, when we fight the good fight of faith we discover a joy that permeates all that we are and all that we do. Like soldiers who commit themselves totally to the cause for which they fight, we can become passionate about living a life of faithful service to the One who will one day end the striving and bring us eternal peace.

Connecting to the Theme: We are commanded to be perfect as Jesus is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Making the commitment to compete well, to fight the good fight, and to run the righteous race, makes us seasoned and solid witnesses to the world.

Question for Journaling: What specific and practical things can I do to step up my spiritual training so that I may compete well for my Catholic faith?

…for, while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future. (1 Timothy 4:8)

 

Day 5 – Warrior Poets

O God, you are my God—it is you I seek! For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts, in a land parched, lifeless, and without water. I look to you in the sanctuary to see your power and glory. For your love is better than life; my lips shall ever praise you! (Psalm 63:2-4)

In the final scene of the movie Braveheart, Robert the Bruce, ready to surrender to the English, decides instead to call out to his troops, “You have bled with Wallace…now bleed with me!” As the Scottish soldiers, starving and outnumbered, race across the open field to meet the enemy in one last battle, we hear the voice of William Wallace saying, “They fought like warrior poets…they fought like Scotsmen…and won their freedom!” The phrase, “warrior poet” describes so perfectly King David, the man after God’s own heart. It also describes what all Catholic men should strive to be.

Psalm 63 begins with, a psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. As Catholic men, we often find ourselves like David the warrior, wandering in the wilderness of our lives. We face the struggles of maintaining our integrity in the barren world of moral relativism. We work hard to provide for our families. We wrestle with what it means to be a man. We are often tempted, tired, and emotionally spent as we walk the lonely path of manhood. And yet, like David the poet, we can experience and express great joy along the journey, incredible moments of contentment, and deep relational insights as we grow in the knowledge of what it means to be free in the blood of Christ. We are warriors, contending with the world, fighting to succeed, and marching onward to win the prize of heaven. And yet we are poets, caught up in the sweet fragrance of our faith, learning the language of the Passion, and surrendering to the beauty of the cross and all that it means for those who believe.

So how do warrior poets grain strength and purpose, and how can we nourish our souls and learn to sing our own song as we travel the road of our Catholic faith? Consider the following:

1)    Warrior Poets find satisfaction and work toward peace no matter what the circumstances. In every situation, waking or sleeping, we rest in the arms of the Almighty. We work to bring blessings into others’ lives and lift up our hearts in confident praise as we move through our days (v. 5-7).
2)    Warrior Poets exist in the sanctuary of God. We live in the shadow of God’s wings. When we wander in the wilderness of dryness and doubt we draw from the life-giving power of the Spirit. We seek God’s wisdom, we cling to His promises, and we look with hope to the One who is our foundation and our strength (v. 2-3, 8-9).
3)    Warrior Poets hunger for God and speak the language of love to a lost world. God’s love is our life, our food, our rest, and our peace. That longing for His love is not a weakness but a surrendering strength, for it fills us with His power and peace. As we experience God’s perfect care for our lives, His love spills out in our praise and our actions toward others (v. 4, 6, 8).
4)    Warrior Poets stand firm in hope and strength. We understand the big picture, the true and final end of all those who defy the living God. We remain confident that our all-powerful and all-knowing Father will bring about our good and the good of His Church. In the end, we know we will share in His victory and experience His eternal peace (v.10-12).

This is the perfection of God’s plan – that His men can be both strong soldiers and gentle healers, fighting the battles of daily living while speaking peace into the lives of others. Like King David, we can rise every morning with hope and determination to guide our day and lay down each evening with trust and contentment to carry us off to sleep. Though we may stumble and fall, we are lifted up and carried to the place where hope springs anew from the soil of struggle. Our lives become our song of praise to the God who loves us, upholds us, and brings us the victory won for us by Jesus Christ.

The wonder of the Catholic faith is that it transforms lives and shares a hope that truly heals. Men who understand the dynamic interplay between strong, determined faith and gentle surrender to its beauty, witness to the character of Christ who lived as the perfect warrior poet. He fought against the hosts of hell and the hypocrisy of men, cast out demons and calmed stormy seas. And yet He could hold little children in His arms, offer His healing touch to the broken, and speak tenderly to the lowliest lost sinner. That perfect gentle strength opened His mouth to reveal the mysteries of salvation and led Him up the Hill of Calvary to offer His life on our behalf. 

Connecting to the Theme: When we witness as strong men filled with passion, meekness, determination, and self-control, we bear the love of God to the world. We serve as we are called, never compromising our beliefs and always ready to bring healing wherever we go. We are warrior poets who witness to the greatest truth – the power of salvation!

Question for Journaling: Where am I strong and where am I gentle, and how can I work to bring both aspects of my Catholic faith to the world around me today?

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:30)


Day 6 – Grains of Wheat

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. (John 12:24)

So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual one. (1 Corinthians 15:42-44)

As men, we are willing to give up many things to achieve a goal, to sacrifice almost anything for those we love. We will throw ourselves in harm’s way to protect a friend or to fight to the end for a noble cause. But the one thing many of us are not willing to give up is our self!

That can be our greatest weakness. Every sin we commit, every wrong we do, and every failure we ever experience is tied to the love of self. We will give up time, talent, and treasure for our families and our Church, but if you ask us to surrender our self that becomes another story. We want to run our own show. We want to be the master of our own lives. If we choose to do the right thing it is because we choose. But if that is the limit of our lives, we will always remain as grains of wheat – full of potential, but never bearing real and lasting fruit.

The life of a Catholic man should be a resurrection life, a life that is lived for heaven and for the will of the One who sent His only begotten Son to save us from our sins. But that cannot happen until we learn to die to our egos, our selfish desires, and our need for ultimate control. We are not very good at doing that. On the one hand, it seems to be wired into us to take charge and get things done; but Jesus calls us to surrender our lives, take up our crosses, and follow to where He will lead. That is a frightening prospect, to put all our trust in something outside of ourselves. But unless we are willing to die to self, we can never realize our full potential as a man of God.

What is the meaning of Jesus’ saying about the grain of wheat? Here are a few things to consider:

1)    The grain must die to produce fruit. It must be buried in the ground and die to being a seed in order for it to grow into the fruitful plant. As Catholics we have been buried in the waters of Baptism and raised to new life in Christ. We are capable of bearing much fruit in our lives.
2)    The change is both within and without. God’s Spirit works within us to bring change in our lives while using the world and our circumstances to grow us into fruitful Christians.
3)    What is sown in weakness is raised in strength. The resurrection life that is sown in us transforms what is corruptible into what is glorious. Every day of our lives we are growing into what it is that we will become at the resurrection. It is by Christ’s power that this takes place.
4)    God has given us all we need to become all we can be. Just as the seed contains all that it needs to become the plant, so too do we have all that we need woven into every bit of our body and our soul. As we surrender the self, we are transformed into the one God has created us to be.
5)    The seed and the plant represent the fullness of salvation. Salvation is a “been saved,” “being saved,” “will be saved,” experience. We have been regenerated in Baptism, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, and we live in expectancy of our resurrected life to come.

God expects His men to be “man enough” to yield to His will, die to self, and be raised up to be fruitful, productive witnesses to the world. He wants us to cast off sin and selfishness in order to discover the beauty, the power, and the joy that comes when we live our lives completely sold out to Him. It is a struggle, but it is in the struggle that the husk of our pride is cracked open and the fruitful nature of our resurrected life is forced up through the rich soil of adversity until it yields the seeds of future harvests for the Church. It is a lifelong journey of overcoming, as we stretch up toward the light of God’s love and burst forth with the abundance of faith that will in turn satisfy the hunger of those who are searching for that same resurrected life that we have found in Christ.

Connecting to the Theme: The more we are caught up in this death-to-life journey of our Catholic faith and the more we yield to the growth that must take place, the more we become true witnesses of the Kingdom. As others experience our resurrection life, they will be nurtured and challenged to give themselves over to this growth as well.

Question for Journaling: What areas of my life do I still need to surrender to Christ and how can I die to them daily so that I may reach my full potential as a witness for the Kingdom of God?

…yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)

 

Day 7 – Who for the Joy Set Before Him…

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. Consider how he endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

It is easy to think of Jesus as joyful when He was teaching the people, holding little children in His arms, healing the sick, or seeing men and women coming to faith in Him. It is a little more difficult to picture Him as joyful in the midst of His suffering, when He sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, when we was beaten and tortured by the Romans, and when He was nailed to the cruel cross for our sins. But the Bible tells us that it was the joy that was before Him that led Him to that cross. It caused Him to refuse the shame and humiliation of the crucifixion, to stand firm against the temptations of the enemy to withdraw from the cross, and to endure separation from His Father as He took all the world’s sins onto Himself. It is almost too much to comprehend!

In all that Jesus said and did, it was this joy that carried Him to the end of His journey. Though He wept at the tomb of Lazarus and shed tears over Jerusalem, though He experienced righteous anger at the money changers in the temple and the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees, and though He was often distressed at the lack of faith and the outright sins of the people around Him, He never lost sight of the joy set before Him. Jesus knew that His mission would save us from sin and open once more the gates to Paradise. All the horror of humanity and the cruelty of the crucifixion could not diminish that perfect, blessed joy!

The question we as Catholic men must ask ourselves is this: Are we willing to endure whatever lies ahead of us in order to experience that wonderful, perfect joy that is ours in Christ? The answer for many of us, if we are honest with ourselves, is no. We avoid pain at all cost. We whine about the simplest of struggles and moan and groan when things do not go our way. We have moments of joy in our journeys, but they are broken so easily by the slightest breeze of adversity. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from the words from Hebrews. Consider the following:

1)    We are joyless because we are burdened. The easy and safe life to which we cling is really a burden, a barrier to the joy that can be ours if we would set our eyes on the victory at the end of the road to the cross. 
2)    We are called to run the race with joyful strength. We are not called to walk the race, but to run with all our strength, as we anticipate the prize that awaits us in Christ. We are to persevere, to give it our all, and to never give up until we reach our goal.
3)    We must fix our eyes on Jesus, the source and finisher of our faith. Jesus began the good work in us and He will complete it. We must keep our eyes the One who came among us as a man, died on the cross, and now reigns in heaven, knowing that resurrection waits for us as well.
4)    As Jesus endured, so must we, so as not to lose heart. Jesus triumphed because the joy within Him overcame the opposition of sinners. We have that same strength within us, and we too can persevere until the end, if we do not lose heart.
5)    There is a cloud of witnesses cheering us on. So many have gone before us, saints who endured the trials and scorned the shame of the cross to take hold of the joy that Christ had set before them. Their prayers and their example will help to carry us across the finish line.

The next time we feel like giving up, we can fix our eyes on the One who never took His eyes off the joy of completing the salvation of humanity through the cross. Let us never stop contemplating the incredible truth that Jesus endured the cruelty of men, the agony of separation from His Father, and the burden of all our sins so that He could set us free and bring us home to heaven.

Connecting to the Theme: The greatest witness to the Gospel is a joyful Christian. As Catholic men, let us look for that joy in every moment of our lives. Let us run the joyful race to heaven and let our enthusiasm, our love, and our happiness in Christ come shining through as we share the incredible story of salvation with all we meet.

Question for Journaling: What are the things that bring us the greatest joy and how can we discover more and more joy in knowing we are running the race for Jesus?

Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction
produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character,
hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out
into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

 

Day 8 – Frail…

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus     every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

The reality of the Incarnation is something so beyond our understanding, and yet it touches our hearts in a place that nothing else – no other “way” of salvation – ever could. The idea that God became a human being, subject to our human struggles, is overwhelming. That He walked the dusty roads of Palestine, sat down to sup with the outcasts of the world, spoke words of healing to the sick, cast out demons, touched the leprous, wept with compassion for our frailties – and ultimately died the ignominious death on the cross – is a testimony of the greatness of His love for those who believe. Yet, for the unbeliever, this is all madness:

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength (1 Corinthians 1:18, 22-25).

Perhaps this holy truth is hardest to bear on men. The idea of being “frail” is not something we enjoy. We would rather “tough it out” and at least give the appearance that we are strong, capable individuals who know how to take care of things. Yet the cross and salvation have absolutely no meaning in our lives if we are not willing to be frail. Being frail, at least in comparison to the “weakness” of the Son of God, means understanding our need to have a Savior who gave up the throne of Heaven to spend time on earth with His creation. It means knowing that we are like sheep who have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6), bleating meaninglessly in the wilderness of the world, in desperate need of a Shepherd to lead us home.

What does it really mean to be frail? Consider the following ideas:

1)    Being frail means accepting our weaknesses. We are children of Adam, fallen and weak, and incapable of saving ourselves. Original sin has corrupted our nature and rendered us weakened  and in need of a Savior.
2)    Being frail means we are not good enough. No matter how much modern society tells us that we are basically good and can achieve anything we want if we work hard enough, the truth is we do not deserve heaven and we cannot do anything to convince God otherwise.
3)    Being frail means all we have comes from God. Our possessions, our strength, our intellect, and our achievements are all gifts from the Almighty. On our own, we could never acquire any of them. It is only through the goodness of a generous God that we even take our next breath.
4)    Being frail means we can stop worrying. We can stop trying to make it on our own. We can let go and let God do the heavy lifting in our lives. We can accept the fact that His yoke is easy and His burden light (Matthew 11:30) and He loves us enough to take care of our needs.
5)    Being frail means we become more powerful in our witness. Like Paul, we can boast in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) because it is the power of God that turns it into strength. When others see us, they can see the power of God that has transformed our lives.

There is a song by Jars of Clay called, “Frail” that speaks of one who appears too afraid to yield to the truth that Christ became a human being to save us from our sins. At one point in the song the musicians sings:

Exposed beyond the shadows
You take the cup from me
Your dirt removes my blindness
Your pain becomes my peace

If I was not so weak
If I was not so cold
If I was not so scared of being broken
Growing old
I would be...
I would be...
I would be...

Frail…

As Catholic men, let us never be afraid of being frail, for Christ turns our weakness into witness, our stumbling into strength. 

Connecting to the Theme: Those we meet along the road of life need to hear the Good News that Jesus became like us, so that we could become like Him. He has taken our frail human lives and put His life into us, so that we are not scared of our brokenness and forever young and powerful in spirit. Let us witness through our frailty, letting our weakness point to the One who has made it possible for frail men like us to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Question for Journaling: What are my weaknesses and how can Jesus turn them into strengths so that I may lead others closer to Him?

He gives power to the faint,
abundant strength to the weak. (Isaiah 40:29)

 

Day 9 – Comfort for My People…

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service has ended, that her guilt is expiated, that she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. A voice proclaims: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord!     Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill made low; the rugged land shall be a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. (Isaiah 40:1-5)

As men, our Catholic walk is not always a smooth one, at least from a worldly standpoint. We experience trials along the road of life, obstacles to our spiritual growth and happiness, and confusion and sadness in times of trouble. We stumble and fall as we go, picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and sometimes wondering if this life of faith is even worth the effort we make.  We just want a little comfort, a break, a respite from the weary way. We may question how we can offer comfort to others when we are in need of comfort ourselves.

Where can we find our rest from the woes of the world? How can we find the strength for living our Catholic faith and sharing it with others? The answer lies in the words of Isaiah. Consider these ideas:

1)    God wants to speak comfort into our lives. God is a tender Father who longs to forgive us our wrongs and bring us His comforting words to sooth our weary souls. His love for us is perfect and His plan is that we discover and embrace His glorious and eternal care.
2)    Though God disciplines us, He leads us to a better way. God corrects us with His gentle hand, showing us our sins and guiding us back to the righteous road. He wants us to experience the joy of reconciliation and the power of salvation in Christ.
3)    We are commanded to make the way straight. When great leaders came to a city, men would clear the way, making the roads straight and smooth. We must prepare the way for the coming of Christ into the lives of others, by removing the obstacles to faith and offering God’s comfort.
4)    Comfort comes when God’s glory is revealed. Our comfort is in experiencing God’s mercy and majesty as it manifests itself in our broken lives. We often think of our purpose in terms of saving souls, but the greatest comfort comes in giving glory and honor to God.
5)    Jesus came to give us the comfort with which we comfort others. We receive God’s encouragement and comfort and we offer that same comfort to others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). The saving power of Jesus comforts us and allows us to pass on that comfort to those who are lost.

It is our mission as Catholic men to offer the comfort of Christ to others. As we walk the narrow way, gladdened by the grace given us by our baptism, we become a beacon of God’s light to others lost at sea, being tossed about by the waves of adversity. Through the Church, our rock and our refuge, we become a place of rest for the lost souls who do not know the Lord and our brothers and sisters who may grow weary along the way. The Word, the sacraments, the teachings and traditions of our faith become the anchor that holds us and the instruments of righteousness that we use to share this comforting Gospel story with all those around us.

Connecting to the Theme: Just as we have received the peace of salvation, so too are we called to be witnesses of the grace of God to others. So many outside the Church see Catholicism as burdensome, while in reality it is the way of the world that drags humanity down. The power and presence of Christ in His Church and in our individual lives is a soothing balm of healing to others. Jesus calls us to offer His comfort to those inside and outside the Church so that we may build up the Body of Christ.

Question for Journaling: What are some practical ways you can offer the comfort of the Gospel to someone hurting today?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

 

Day 10 – Examination of Conscience

Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar. You sift through my travels and my rest; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all. Behind and before you encircle me and rest your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, far too lofty for me to reach. Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee? If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are. If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea, even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast. If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light”—darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are but one. You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. How precious to me are your designs, O God; how vast the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the sands; when I complete them, still you are with me. When you would destroy the wicked, O God, the bloodthirsty depart from me! Your foes who conspire a plot against you are exalted in vain. Do I not hate, Lord, those who hate you? Those who rise against you, do I not loathe? With fierce hatred I hate them, enemies I count as my own. Probe me, God, know my heart; try me, know my thoughts. See if there is a wicked path in me; lead me along an ancient path. (Psalm 139)

If we are to be men of integrity, who stand before the world as witnesses to the Son of God who redeemed us from hell by His death on the cross, we must be willing to examine ourselves in order to right the wrongs we have done. We must seek out the sacrament that reconciles us to our Father and to one another as Church. Only then can we carry the message of the Gospel to others. In fact, finding forgiveness in Christ through the Church is the Gospel message! The Confessional is the place where the glorious Good News of salvation is experienced in a deeply personal and communal way. As we come before the throne of grace, we are called to an Examination of Conscience.

The Catholic Church has a number of ways for us to do an Examination of Conscience. We can read through at the 10 Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, or the letters of Saint Paul. We can consider how we have lived out Christ’s spiritual and corporal works of mercy. We can ponder how we have hurt ourselves, our families and friends, our Church community, and our world. For Catholic men, getting real with our sin is so important, especially since we so often try to deny or explain away our sin in order to save face. One of the most powerful passages about self-examination comes from Psalm 139. Let us consider what this beautiful and majestic Scripture has to teach us about sacramental self-discernment:

1)    God’s probing love penetrates deep into our souls, revealing everything about us. God is the one who has knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He longs for familiarity and intimacy so that He may heal us of our sins.
2)    God’s knowledge and discernment are everywhere and yet beyond our reach. Whether we rise or rest God is there. Though He knows us in the most intimate way, we cannot fully grasp His greatness. We must surrender to His discerning gaze in order to find forgiveness and renewal.
3)    We cannot hide from God’s mercy. So often we run from the light of God, afraid that we will face His judgment and be overwhelmed by it. But the truth is, when we examine ourselves through His radiance, we find mercy and discover the Father’s gentle disciplining hand.
4)    God’s plans for us are an intricate part of the process of forgiveness. Reconciliation reconnects us to the design that God has for our lives. As we consider our failings, we must also contemplate what God has in store for us and how our lives will serve to further His holy plans.
5)    In the end, our examination must lead to a deep hatred of sin. Too many often turn temptation into an enticing game. We play with sin like children play with fire. But in the end, we must be willing to turn a hateful eye toward our sin and forsake our failures so that God can work in us.

The closing lines of Psalm 139 should be our ongoing cry. Daily we should ask God to test us, to search our wayward hearts and reveal to us our wicked ways so that He may lead us along the ancient path of salvation. God’s Spirit will show us the depths of our souls, diving deep into the heart of who we are until we come to terms with our sin, so that He may display His forgiving love and perfect plan for our lives. As we become caught up in that discerning discipline, we can purge our lives of selfishness and sin and walk in the way of salvation as members of the Mystical Body. 

Connecting to the Theme: True disciples are unafraid to face the light of God’s cleansing love. As we examine our lives and surrender to God’s healing, we become transparent, transformed witnesses who can walk faithfully with others along the path of salvation.

Question for Journaling: What are the sins I have been hiding from God and how do I see God’s plan unfolding in my life as I seek His mercy and discerning light?

Examine me, Lord, and test me; search my heart and mind. Your mercy is before my eyes;
I walk guided by your faithfulness. (Psalm 26:2-3)

 

Catholic Men's Devotional - Days 11-20

Day 11 – Table Manners

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)

The Eucharist is central to our lives as Catholics. It is not simply a representation of the Last Supper; it is, as Pope Francis has said, the Last Supper itself. It is a theophany, an experience of the Passion and redeeming death of the Lord. (Rediscover a “Sense of the Sacred” at Mass, February 10 Homily Excerpts) As Jesus Himself said, it is “true food” and “true drink” (John 6:55). We have been given a great gift in the Eucharist. We are called to follow Christ, to take up our cross and walk the walk of surrender to self as we embrace the sacrifice that set all humanity free. We are to become like Christ, to be broken bread and poured out wine to the world. The Eucharist satisfies our deepest desire for peace. It feeds our most profound hunger for purpose and stirs our greatest joy. It gives us the strength to be men after God’s own heart, to sacrifice ourselves in the service of the Gospel for our families, our Church, and our world. The beauty, power, and presence of the Eucharist are so foundational to our role as Catholic men.

The question we must ask ourselves is whether we truly understand the nature of the sacrament as we come to the Communion table Sunday after Sunday. Do we recognize – discern – the Body and the Blood of the Lord as we receive the Eucharist? Do we come with clean hearts and open hands, ready to fully participate in the sacrifice of the Mass and ready to be sent out into the world to spread the Good News of Jesus by our words and deeds? Or do we come with broken spirits, hardened hearts, and closed minds, unable to set aside our selfishness and take on the task of spreading the Gospel to the lost? As Catholic men, we must be willing to give ourselves over to our Savior as we listen to His Word and allow it to lead us to the table with resolve and understanding.

How can we live out the Eucharist in our lives? John, chapter 6, has the answers. Here are a few things to think about:

1)    The Eucharist is about life. Jesus says that He is the true bread that comes down from heaven to give life to the world (v. 32-33). His sacrificial death on the cross provides our salvation and we experience that saving moment every time we receive the Body and Blood of the Lord.
2)    The Eucharist is about abundance. The Bread of Life Discourse takes place after the Feeding of the 5,000. The people wanted the miracle of loaves to continue. Jesus offered them a much greater abundance, the promise of eternal life in Him.
3)    The Eucharist is about satisfaction. Those who partake of the Body and Blood will never hunger or thirst again (v. 34-35, 58). There is no further need for sacrifices, for the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the cross is satisfaction for humanity’s sins.
4)    The Eucharist is about making an eternal decision. We are asked to give our “Amen!” to receiving the Eucharist, to accept the offer of salvation through Christ’s death on the cross. We can say yes to His call or murmur in disbelief like those who rejected His “hard saying.”
5)    The Eucharist is about love. Jesus knew that many would reject Him because of the Eucharist, but He still offered His love to the world. Like Peter, we can return that love, by acknowledging that only Jesus has the words of everlasting life, and giving our lives fully to Him.

It is time for us as men to stand firm in our faith in the Eucharist and to bring the presence of Christ to a hurting world. Christ has given us this sacrament so that we may share in salvation as past, present, and future come together in a moment so profound that our only response is one of thanksgiving and awe. The bread of the earth and the fruit of the vine become the very Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of the One who has saved us from our sins! As we feast on the Body and Blood, as we consume the Eucharist, we connect with the eternal sacrifice of Christ and are nourished for our work as servants of the Kingdom. Let us never take for granted what the sacrament of the Eucharist is all about.

Connecting to the Theme: The manner in which we receive the Eucharist is important. We cannot become witnesses to the world if we sin against the Body and Blood of the Lord by a poor reception of the sacrament. As we receive, so we are sent out into the world, to be broken bread and poured out wine for all those who hunger and thirst for Jesus.

Question for Journaling: How can I develop a greater love for the Eucharist so that I may come to the Communion table in a worthy manner, receive with joy and thanksgiving, and then take Jesus out to the lost and hurting of this world?

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you. (Luke 22:19-20)

 

Day 12 – Double Minded or Fully Joyful

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.  But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)

Sin, while always connected to pride, is also a product of doubt. So often, Catholic men find themselves facing trials and folding under the pressure to persevere. We find it difficult to consider it a joy that our faith is being tested. We hate weakness and we hate failure, and trials bring us both. And in the end, it is doubt that can cause us to stumble. When we fail to see the good of the trial, it is because we doubt that God will supply the wisdom and the strength for us to see it through.

James has the prescription for our doubting, double-minded, unstable ways. The whole of chapter 1 of his letter offers the answers to finding the full measure of joy in the midst of trials:

1)    The lowly have the high standing. In verse 9, James tells us, The brother in lowly circumstances should take pride in his high standing… When we are brought low, our whole perspective changes. We recognize our need for God and become open to the power the testing provides.
2)    Avoiding the birth of sin. James describes the power of temptation in the midst of trials as a seduction that leads to conception of sin, giving birth to the full measure of death (v. 14-15).  Temptation is the work of the flesh, not God. God gives us the power to persevere, not to fall.
3)    Stop being tossed around on the sea of your troubles. We cannot receive God’s wisdom and blessing if we are too busy being blown back and forth by our doubt. We must ask for God to supply us with the assuring understanding we need to navigate our struggles in faith.
4)    We must be men who act on the word we hear. James compares those who hear the word and do nothing about it to a man looking at his reflection and then forgetting what he looks like (v. 22-24). Faith, without works, is dead. Acting on God’s promises shows trust.
5)    Looking deeply into the law of love and be free to care. We need to focus all our spiritual attention on the depth of God’s abiding love, for as we take hold of His wisdom and draw it into our lives, we discover freedom from sin and freedom to live a life of blessing and growth (v. 25).


James concludes chapter 1 in v 27 with a call to care for widows and orphans, and a command to keep oneself from the stain of the world. Love, service, and purity should mark the joyful doer of the Word. The joyful part is not in the trials themselves but in grasping the awesome truth that God is using these trials to mold us into men who will not fold under pressure. Like a rigorous spiritual workout, our trials exercise our spiritual muscles until we shape up into men after God’s own heart. With each day that unfolds, we accept the struggles knowing that God is making us stronger, destroying doubt, and teaching us how to love others and live with integrity. In Christ, we become wise servants who stand strong against the waves of indecision and doubt and carry out His will with passion and power.

Connecting to the Theme: Double minded men make poor witnesses. When we accept our lowly position in God’s plan and accept that it is His wisdom that fuels our faith, we can become men of action who share our faith with our words and our deeds.

Question for Journaling: What are ways I can develop a deeper trust in God so that His wisdom can give me stability and focus to carry out His will in my life?

Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, 
for he who made the promise is trustworthy.(Hebrews 10:23)

 


Day 13 – Common Taters on the Axe

Jesus answered and said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a person once grown old be born again? Surely he cannot reenter his mother’s womb and be born again, can he?” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of flesh is flesh and what is born of spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:3-8)

In “The Little House” book series by Laura Ingles Wilder, there is a story where the town is gathered at the schoolhouse for entertainment. During the last round of a game of charades, Pa walks to the front of the room with a couple potatoes balanced on the head of an axe. No one can figure out what the phrase is and Pa finally says, “It’s Common Taters on the Axe!” – Commentators on the Acts (of the Apostles). It is so clever and yet so simple that everyone misses the point.

When Nicodemus came to Jesus, Jesus presented him with a “common taters” no-nonsense answer to the deepest longing in Nicodemus’ heart. It was simple and direct, something a child would be able to grasp. Yet because of the double meaning of the word translated as “again” and “above” Nicodemus became confused as to what Jesus was really telling him. This great teacher of the Law was unable to grasp the simple truth that Jesus had come to bring us new birth in Him and to all the world.

Catholic men are often equally as stubborn and slow to learn the childlike truth of what it means to believe in Jesus. We are self-reliant, intellectual, strong-willed adults who try so hard to be men of faith that we miss the point of what having faith is all about. Jesus, in his conversation with Nicodemus, has the fresh ideas we need. Consider the following:

1)    Men complicate what is often very simple. In our journey to be better Catholics, we may study great commentaries and seek out wise teachers. This is good, but we often stumble on words and ideas when Jesus offers us truths that any child could understand.
2)    “Amen, Amen” means to pay attention. Twice in the above passage, Jesus uses “Amen, Amen” as a way to let Nicodemus – and all of us – know that the truth about being born from above is crucial for understanding what our salvation and His death on the cross is all about. 
3)    Flesh vs. Spirit makes all the difference. Jesus came in the flesh to bring salvation from above. If we focus only on what we can experiences with our senses, we will miss the power of God in our midst. True rebirth in Christ is a matter of the spirit and a matter of faith.
4)    There is no other way to heaven. Only in Christ and the power of His resurrection do we find salvation. His love takes us a lifetime to learn as we work out our journey to heaven one trembling step at a time. It is worth the journey, for no other way will get us to our home.
5)    The wind of the Spirit blows where it will. We cannot grasp how the Holy Spirit works, how the sacraments bring us grace, or how God takes our weakness and turns it into His strength. Yet, we know the Spirit is there, working all things out to the good in our lives.

Jesus goes on to talk about being lifted up so that all who believe might have life in the One who came down from heaven (v. 13-14). God sent Jesus to the earth to save us because of His great love. John 3:16 sums it all up: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. God’s giving began in the incarnation and found its fulfillment on the cross. Yet Catholic men often struggle to believe this simple truth. We spend so much time in self-condemnation or self-aggrandizement that we fail to surrender to the simple truth that God came not to condemn the world but to save it (v.17). This joyful reality is so powerful and so plain that if we are not careful, we may miss all that it holds for us.

Connecting to the Theme: A good witness is one who studies the Word and grows in his faith. A great witness is one who also yields to the wonderful truth that salvation is so simple, even a child can grasp it. Before we can witness to others we need to embrace the pure reality that God loved us enough to send His Son to die for us so that we could be born from above. The Church is a community of rescued children, working out our salvation and learning to grasp what it means to be loved perfectly by the Savior who gave us His all.

Question for Journaling: How can I get more in touch with the awesome and no-nonsense truths of my Catholic faith so that I will be a better witness to the world?

Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God
like a child will not enter it.”(Luke 18:17)



Day 14 – Then and Now

Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Human beings have a tendency to rewrite their own histories. We often look back on our lives and miss what we believe to be happier times, simpler times before the mistakes and missteps, the failures and the falls from grace. We sometimes wish we could have a “do-over” – to go back and live our lives knowing what we know now. That kind of regret can kill our spirits and keep us from moving forward in our journeys as Catholic men.

Paul was certainly a man who could have dwelt on the past. He was a leader in his day, highly educated, an up-and-coming Pharisee, moving in all the right circles. Yet, an encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus changed everything for him. Now he faced persecution, physical pain, loneliness, and depression. Yet, he also experienced the joy of seeing many souls won to Christ, the strengthening of his faith through fiery trials, ecstatic visions of heaven, and deep and lasting friendships with other believers. Rather than cling to his former safe and sinful life, he pressed on, longing with all his heart to finish the race and obtain the goal of Christ.

God will do the same with us. He wants to mold men who will build His Church and lead it into eternity. He wants men who will be strong husbands and fathers, faithful brothers, and solid Kingdom workers. Every moment on this earth He offers us opportunities to grow and shape the world with our faithful living. Yes, we fail and yes, we have regrets. But our God is powerful enough and loving enough to remake our lives in the image of His Son.

In our journey to heaven, Catholic men have a lot to face – and a lot to gain. Consider these points:

1)    We cannot go back, but we can have a fresh start. Remember: So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). What lies ahead is better than anything that has come before. Heaven will be glorious!
2)    Our past, no matter how bad, is worked out for the good for those who believe (Romans 8:28). There is no amount of failure that God cannot turn to success for those He has called. God’s sovereign purpose for our lives and His Church will prevail in the end.
3)    God has wonderful plans for us. Remember: For I know well the plans I have in mind for you…plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. (Jeremiah 29:11). God wants to prosper us spiritually and place us on a path to a hopeful future with Him.
4)    We don’t need to worry – only to do the task we’ve been given. Paul reminded Timothy not to let anyone put him down but to carry out his ministry every day (1 Timothy 4:11-16). God will equip us for our role in His Church. All we need to do is be faithful to our calling in Christ.
5)    We know the end of the story and it all works out. The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5a). That same story works itself out in our daily lives. Because of Christ we can find newness in each day, forgiveness and peace, and a fresh start.

No matter what we are facing today: family problems, sinful struggles, regrets, or unfulfilled dreams, God can and will bring good out of it all, changing our hearts, renewing our lives, and guiding us as we live out our calling as Catholic men. Remember that we are new creations. That is not just some catchy phrase; that is an eternal truth that is ours because we are part of the Body of Christ. Let us live our lives knowing that we can become all God wants us to be!

Connecting to the Theme: There are many men out there experiencing the same struggles that we face. We are called to share the hope we have in Christ. We need to pass along the incredible truth that God works miracles in the most stubborn, sinful, and struggling souls – ours! Let us be willing to witness with our lives to others, to walk the road to Christ with those who need a Savior and those who have forgotten what being a Catholic man is all about.

Question for Journaling: What parts of my past can I let go today and how will that letting go influence the way I live this day as a witness for Jesus and His Church.

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)


Day 15 – God’s Still Small Voice

Then the Lord said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord; the Lord will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the Lord—but the Lord was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the Lord was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the Lord was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah? (1 Kings 19:11-13)

Men tend to want answers, especially when things are not going right. And not only that, but we usually want our answers to be grand, loud, and larger than life. We want God to move heaven and earth to answer our needs. And yet, when we are in our worst moments, that is exactly what we do NOT need!

Elijah had stood up to the prophets of Baal, calling on God to send down holy fire to his water-soaked sacrifice. But then, the cruel words of a wicked woman sent him running for his life to hide in a cave. Elijah came to the mountain where God had spoken to Moses and he was hoping for some great sign to ease his deep despair. God sent great signs, a howling wind, a thundering earthquake, and a raging fire; and yet, God was not present in these signs. It was the almost inaudible whisper of the Almighty that brought Elijah to his knees in trembling and awe. God spoke His presence powerfully into Elijah’s spirit, offering him comfort, reassurance, and a new sense of purpose. God wants to speak in the same way to us.

What can we as Catholic men, learn from Elijah’s experience? Consider the following:

1)    No matter how good things are, we can stumble at any moment. Our pride is often our undoing. We need to remember that, while God wants to grant us success, He wants us to remain humble before Him. He longs for our obedience and our love, more than our valiant efforts. We should always take care, lest we fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). 
2)    God likes to speak in whispers. Certainly God used great signs throughout the ages to show His people who He was. But He also speaks in simple and subtle ways: through the beauty of His world, in the voices of friends, in little “chance” happenings, and in the quiet of our hearts. If we are willing to listen to that still small voice, we will hear a great deal!
3)    God’s answers come in His timing and in His way. Though it was not in the way the prophet expected, God provided the perfect answer to Elijah’s struggles. He provides unique and unusual miracles in the same way to us today. We may not always understand how God will answer our needs, but we must believe that He will do so each and every time.
4)    Our help often comes from people in the Church. Just as God provided Elijah 7000 who had not bowed down to Baal (v. 18), He provides us with brothers and sisters in the Church who will lift us up, provide support, and stand with us as we face our struggles and press on to do the work God has called us to do.
5)    When God gives His answer, we find new strength. Elijah found new strength to continue his mission to preach to God’s people when he experienced God’s answer in the hearts of those around him. No great sign is as wonderful as the love of Christ made manifest in the hearts of those willing to supply our needs in His name.

As Catholic men, we need to be open, vulnerable, and willing to follow as God calls. We need to accept help from our Church family, particularly our brothers in the faith. The simple truth is that we are weak and unsure of ourselves without Christ to guide us. Let us listen to the Holy Spirit speaking into our lives today!

Connecting to the Theme: Our greatest witness to the Gospel is not necessarily in great signs, but in changed lives, in those who are willing to listen to the still small voice of God. As we find strength and renewal in the daily whisperings of our heavenly Father, we can work to share this great joy with all we meet. As we become open to the Gospel, we will live it out more fully with others.

Question for Journaling: How has God spoken to me in quiet and not so quiet ways and how am I answering His call to witness to others about the joy I have in Christ?

They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings;
They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:31)


Day 16 – Brother to Brother

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)

The simple truth about living out our Catholic faith as men is that we need other men in our lives. We need those who will hold us accountable, confront us about our sin, walk with us on our faith journeys, and lift us up so that we can live spiritually sold out to Christ. Left on our own, we often fall into self-reliant, self-focused behavior. We find it easier to hide our secret sins of anger, lust, and pride. We neglect the Word, our worship, the sacraments, and Church involvement. But when brothers come along side us in our lives we find the strength to surrender our lives to Christ and take up our place in the Mystical Body right where God has placed us.

Do we have Catholic men in our lives who will love us enough to walk the often rocky road of fellowship with us? And are we willing to do the same for them? The calling to live as true brothers in the Church involves much. Consider a few ideas on fellowship from the reading above:

1)    True manly living is a “putting on” and a path to perfection.  We cannot simply play the part of a brother. It must be something that is a part of us. It must be a spiritual garment that we choose to put on every day, intimately tied to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling power within us.
2)    In meekness is strength. Words like “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (v. 12) are not “manly” words in the sense of how the world views manhood. Yet, they are powerful virtues that allow us to be strong models of faith to our fellow man.
3)    Forgiveness is a foundational blessing. Men fall, and sometimes fall hard. Our willingness to forgive one another is so crucial to what fellowship is all about. We need to confront each other with our grievances so that we may be reconciled to one another and find inner healing.
4)    Love is the bonding agent of our fellowship. Love is the glue that holds all the other virtues together. Without the sacrificial love of Christ we would soon inject selfishness and fear into our actions. Love is what leads us toward perfection, giving grace to all our actions with our brothers.
5)    Christ is the focus, the power, and the goal of our lives. Jesus must control our lives, energize our actions, bring richness to our living, and direct our purpose. As we surrender to His headship we become joyful, meaningful, and thankful servants who live only for God’s perfect will.

The more we live this life of fellowship with the Lord and one another, the more we will accomplish and the easier the burden of faithful living will become. Real men are not afraid to be honest, reliable, truly loving brothers to other men. We see that our purpose within the Church is to live as shining examples of men of action, building up the Body of Christ one individual at a time. Those who have even one such brother in the faith are blessed indeed!

Connecting to the Theme: Christians talk about “leading others to Christ.” Catholic men not only lead other men to Christ, they equip them, stand by them, and support them every step of the way on their journeys toward our heavenly home. True brotherhood is a lifelong process of personal growth, accountability and support, and joyful fellowship shared within the commonality of the Church.

Question for Journaling: Where are the men in my life that I can support and what are the most important ways I can support them starting today?

Iron is sharpened by iron;
one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)


Day 17 – You’re a Loser!

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man will come with his angels in his Father’s glory, and then he will repay everyone according to his conduct. (Matthew 16:24-27)

Perhaps one of the biggest insults one man can make to another is to call him a loser. We are driven to succeed, to find purpose in our lives, and to be the best that we can be. But when we’re told that we’re the opposite of a successful, purposeful man, it can cut to the core of who we are.

The message of the cross is so contradictory to our natural inclinations as men. Yet Jesus joyfully offers us this blessed paradox – to lose one’s life in order to gain eternal life and the treasures of heaven. The whole world is worthless compared to our life in Christ; and there is no other way to find salvation. It is not a burden but a blessing, a holy call that all of us have been given in love.

What can we as Catholic men learn from God’s Word about this glorious contradiction? Consider the following:

1)    Jesus brings not peace, but a sword. Jesus never promised us an easy, peaceful life. He said that believing in Him would divide families. He said that those who would not take up their crosses would be unworthy of Him (Matthew 10:34-39).  He calls us to this radical ideal because anyone or anything we love more than God is an idol and falls short of heaven.
2)    We consider all things a loss to gain Christ. Like Paul, our love for Christ fills us with such joy that everything else is rubbish compared to our salvation (Philippians 3:8). To the world, we are fools because we put Christ first. But once we have experienced the saving power, the love, and the connection to His Body, the world appears as fading glory.
3)    There are no participation trophies. We are told to run the race to win, and to go into strict training to accomplish that goal (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). The Christian life is not a spectator sport. We are here to win: to win souls for Christ, to win honor for the Church, to win heaven for ourselves as we witness to the world. There is no compromising. It is all or nothing for us.
4)    God sticks by His winners. God calls us to be strong and courageous. Though we are weak and insignificant compared to the world, we have our heavenly Father on our side. He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). Therefore we never need to be afraid of losing, because God gives us His victory.
5)    Hope turns weaklings into eagles. When we accept that we are weak, yet put our trust in the Lord, we find renewed strength to continue the journey. In fact, we soar on wings like eagles. We run without stopping. We walk and do not faint (Isaiah 40:31).  In Christ, we experience moments of glory, days of passion, and times of refreshment because He is our strength.

The strongest Catholic men are those who understand that their weakness is turned into strength because of what Jesus Christ does in our lives. We belong to the Church that has endured throughout the ages, despite all obstacles. We have the sacraments to nourish us, the fellowship of other believers to support us, and the wisdom of the Scriptures and our traditions to uphold us in faith. When we tap into that power, there is nothing that can stop us.

Connecting to the Theme: Real men witness through weakness turned into strength. We admit our need for God, our connection to the Body of Christ, and our dependence on the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. We exist in a place where God is our ultimate supply and strength. By our example, we show others that they too can experience the same strength in Jesus.

Question for Journaling: What parts of my life do I hold back from Jesus and how can I surrender those weak areas so that He may turn them into strengths?

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, 
but for God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)


Day 18 – Sins of the Fathers and Loving Legacies

The Lord came down in a cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name, “Lord.” So the Lord passed before him and proclaimed: The Lord, the Lord, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin; yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but bringing punishment for their parents’ wickedness on children and children’s children to the third and fourth generation! (Exodus 34:5-7)

One of our biggest concerns we have as men is whether we will leave a lasting legacy upon this earth. We spend our lives learning, growing, achieving – striving to be more than mere mortal men. We wonder if what we do really matters. We ask ourselves if we are living as God desires. Are we being the best husband and father we can be? If we are honest with ourselves we know that many times we fall short. 

God’s love has the power to turn our failures into lasting legacies. By His grace we can become the men we are meant to be. We can pass on his love and strength to others: our children, our Church, and our community. We cannot take this awesome responsibility lightly because, just as we pass on the good given to us in Christ, we can also pass on sinful habits, bitterness and pain, and the inner resistance to God that we hold onto in our own lives.

How can the message of Exodus 34:5-7 inspire us as Catholic men, to live a life that passes on grace and glory rather than guilt and godlessness? Consider the following:

1)    The Lord of the universe loved us enough to come down to meet us. Just as God came down in a cloud and proclaimed His mighty name to Moses, so too does He choose to enter into our lives through Christ with that same powerful love. It is an awesome thing to stand before our God and let His great love overshadow us in order to transform our lives.
2)    God’s mercy is tied to the slowness of his anger. If God treated us as our sins deserved, we would not stand. But He is eternally patient with His children, giving us time to repent and return to the Father who loves us. He has given us the Church and the sacraments to give us grace and to turn our hearts toward Him when we fall. Our patient God loves us enough to wait.
3)    While our sins can touch several generations, God’s love extends into eternity. Some focus so much on God’s justice that they are never able to move past the pain and the sorrow to become who God calls them to be. But God’s love can break into our lives and lead us to the path of love. That love can undo the damage of generational sin and be passed on to those who come after us.
4)    Ultimately God does not punish us for the sins of our fathers. The law stated that no one should suffer for the sins of their parents, but only for their own sins (Deuteronomy 24:16). The cycle of pain can give way to a legacy of grace, if we allow God to work in our lives. When we accept the mercy of God, we can find forgiveness and new life in Christ.
5)    Our legacy begins with love, continues with teaching, and ends with integration. The Shema was Israel’s legacy prayer. It expressed the essence of what it meant to belong to the People of God. If we love God with all our hearts, it will spill out into the future. Because we have been loved by God we desire to pass on that love to future generations through sound teaching.

Perhaps it is best if we quote this wonderful legacy prayer in full:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. Tie them on your hand as a sign. They should be on your forehead as a symbol. Write them on your house’s doorframes and on your city’s gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Jesus had a similar legacy prayer:

“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. I give you these commandments so that you can love each other. (John 15:9-17)

Connecting to the Theme: Our Catholic witness should be a lasting one. As we love with the same love of Christ – that same tender, obedient, sacrificial love – we bear lasting fruit in our lives. We can leave no better legacy to our children, our Church, and our world than to be living examples of that same love that bled and died on that cross so that we might have a lasting legacy in heaven.

Question for Journaling: Do I truly accept the mercy of God in my life and am I loving the way Jesus has loved me so that I may pass on to future generations the power and presence of the Christ?

We have known and have believed the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who remain in love
remain in God and God remains in them. (1John 4:16)


Day 19 – Dance Like No One is Watching…Just Not In Front of Your Kids!

Then David came dancing before the Lord with abandon, girt with a linen ephod. David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and sound of horn. As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal, daughter of Saul, looked down from her window, and when she saw King David jumping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart…When David went home to bless his own house, Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him and said, “How well the king of Israel has honored himself today, exposing himself to the view of the slave girls of his followers, as a commoner might expose himself!” But David replied to Michal: “I was dancing before the Lord. As the Lord lives, who chose me over your father and all his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people, Israel, not only will I make merry before the Lord, but I will demean myself even more. I will be lowly in your eyes, but in the eyes of the slave girls you spoke of I will be somebody.” Saul’s daughter Michal was childless to the day she died. (2 Samuel 6:14-16, 20-23)

Do we know how to celebrate our Catholic faith with all our heart, mind, and soul? Do we respond to the mystery and majesty of our life in Christ with the same passion and enthusiasm we display toward our hobbies or sports teams? Or is our Catholicism something we have lived with for so long that it has become routine? We will shout at the top of our lungs when some superstar makes a winning score or sings a favorite song, yet we will yawn our way through Sunday Mass, unmoved at the great mystery of the Eucharist taking place before us. We will hang on every word as a remodeling expert shows us how to tackle the latest home improvement project, but we barely remember the message of the latest homily or spiritual counsel spoken to us in the Confessional. Something is very wrong with this picture.

Catholic men need to gain a new perspective on what it means to live out our faith. We need to follow the example of King David who danced like a madman before the Ark of the Lord. How can we come to experience a deeper love for our faith? Consider these ideas from our reading:

1)    God has given us His best and we owe Him our best. Just as God gave His presence to the people of Israel, He gives us the Presence of Christ in the Word and the Eucharist. Every celebration of the Mass should bring us great joy and we should respond with our deepest love.
2)    We have been chosen and we should let the world know it loud and proud. We often forget that salvation is a gift we have been given, not a privilege we deserve. Our chosen status should be a call to tell all the world of the greatness of God, who gave His Son for our sins.
3)    What some will dismiss and despise, we wear as a garment of praise. Yes, the world may look at our enthusiasm for our faith as a kind of insanity, but that should not curb our passion or stifle us into submission. Instead we should hold our heads up high and press on with joy.
4)    God’s power and presence leads to a state of overflowing gratitude. Psalm 100 is a perfect example of the thanksgiving that should flow from our lips. God’s goodness to us leads us to joyful service, humble submission, thankful praise, and perfect rest.
5)    Our thanksgiving should manifest itself in words and actions. Not only should praise flow naturally from our lips in our prayers and our speech, but we should be moving through our days with the grace-filled joy of a holy dancer, knowing we are moving in step with our loving God.

There few things as powerful as a man who is unashamed about His faith. Through our humble and gracious understanding of God’s goodness to us and our heartfelt and committed response of love, faithful action, and ever-deepening prayerful living, we show the world that life in Christ fills us with all that we need to live abundant lives.

Connecting to the Theme: As we accept this great gift of our Catholic faith, we become more solid in our witness to the world. When others, particularly other men, see the strength, the joy, and the submission in our lives, they are seeing what it means to experience the peace of Christ and its power to transform lives.

Question for Journaling: Am I willing to “dance before the Lord” – to live so enthusiastically and passionately for my Catholic faith that there ceases to be shame – and as I do, how can I show others the joy that I have experienced because of God’s goodness to me?

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth;
break into song; sing praise. (Psalm 98:4)


Day 20 – Real Strength for Real Men

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is God from of old, creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, and his knowledge is beyond scrutiny. He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, They that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)

Every man fails. We are fallen creatures, stained by sin and lost without a Savior. When we stumble on the road of life we can either live with the mistake and allow it to shape our lives or we can pick ourselves up and begin again. The road to recovery is never easy. When our strength is gone and the world seems against us, the path may be unclear. But there is a way we can go.

The 1986 sports film, Hoosiers (Orion Pictures), is a story about a man who failed and was given a second chance. Norman Dale (Gene Hackman) was a New York college basketball coach for the Ithica Warriors who was fired for physically assaulting one of his players during a crucial game. He was hired as a high school basketball coach for the Hickory, Indiana Huskers by the principal – essentially given one last chance to do the thing he was born to do. He was treated as an outsider by the people of the town who challenged his every decision and eventually tried to have him fired. But it was the courage of one player, Jimmy Chipwood, who saved Coach Dale’s job, saying, “If he goes, I go!” The Huskers went on to win the 1954 state basketball championship.

Coach Dale faced enormous obstacles to win the hearts of the people of the town and lead his team to the championship. In a poignant scene from the movie, the players were preparing for their final game against South Bend Central High, when two local preachers offered up prayers for the team. One pastor quoted 1 Maccabees 3:18b-19: “With God of heaven it is all one, to deliver with a great multitude or a small company. For the victory of battle standeth not in the multitude of host, but strength cometh from heaven.” The other pastor quoted from 1 Samuel 17:49: “And David put his hand in the bag and took out a stone and slung it, and struck the Philistine on the head, and he fell to the ground.” At that moment, the meaning of the movie became clear: our second chances find their fulfillment in the strength of God alone!

What can we learn about God’s strength for weary men who have failed? Consider the following:

1)    Without God, every man will fail. From Adam to Paul, all men, when they seek their own way, will stumble and fall. We need God’s strength to help us to accomplish His purposes for our lives. When we do things on our own, we accomplish nothing but failure.
2)    God’s ways are not our ways and we thank Him for that. The Bible tells us, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…(Isaiah 55:8). So many men rage against the will of God and end up exhausted and defeated. When we surrender to the truth that God is in charge, we receive the power we need to accomplish greatness in His name.
3)    Hope is the fountain of youth. Even strong young men will fail without God. But even old men can find new spiritual vitality and renewed purpose by submitting to God in trust, knowing He will give us what we need. In His strength, we are reborn in drive and determination.
4)    In God, our second chance can be our number one accomplishment. The second half of our life can be the best half if we live for the Lord. The mistakes of the past can give way to spiritual soaring and great personal triumph as a son of our heavenly Father.
5)    Real strength and real manhood comes from submitting to the greater good. As we connect to the purposes of God, we become caught up in the flow of His plan and together with our brothers in faith we carry it out. That humility is the essence of true manhood.

No matter what mistakes we have made in the past, God’s renewing strength is always present within the hope we hold in our hearts. As Catholic men, we have the incredible gift of grace given to us by Christ in our baptism, strengthened through all the sacraments, and lived out within the family of the Church. Satan tries to teach us that the failures are too many to forgive, the obstacles too big to fight, and the future to frightening to face. But if we remember that “strength cometh from heaven” we will not fail, but only succeed for His glory and our good!

Connecting to the Theme: A changed life – especially a strong second half – is a powerful witness to those who feel like there is no hope. Catholic men who accept their limitations and draw on God’s strength to renew them day after day, can show the world that with God, we can accomplish all that He desires for our lives.

Question for Journaling: What mistakes can I cast aside today so that I can place my hope in the Lord, seek His strength, and find renewal so that I may soar for Him in my witness to others?

Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

 

Catholic Men's Devotional - Days 21-30

Day 21 – Love Your Wives

Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So [also] husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man shall leave [his] father and [his] mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:21-31)

It is amazing that Christ should command us to love our wives as He loves the Church. That He should even make such a comparison shows the depths of His love for us and the concern He has that Catholic men should live out their duties as husbands with utmost fidelity. How we carry out this command is often easier said than done. With the exception of Jesus, no one knows us more intimately than our wives; that can make it difficult to be the men our wives need us to be.

The sad truth also is that many have taken this passage and turned it into an excuse for men to dominate their wives, to be the “King of the Castle” so to speak. But the question remains: if we want to be kings in our homes, are we willing to treat our wives like the queens they deserve to be? Consider these ideas from this part of Ephesians, chapter 5:

1)    Marriage is all about mutual submission. This means that we are to yield to those things that God has established for marriage for the sake of His kingdom. Men and women should assume their roles in the marriage and live them out as God has intended, for the glory of God.
2)    Headship is about deliverance, not domination. Our role as heads of our households is to deliver our wives over to Christ in beauty and perfection, not to rule over them. True headship respects and appreciates the gifts and godliness of our wives and what they have to offer to us.
3)    Our love should be sacrificial, not selfish. Many men claim that they would die for their wives yet will refuse to help with the chores or the children. Real love puts our wives first and leads us to lay down our needs, our dreams, and our very lives for their betterment.
4)    “Cherish” is the watchword of every action. We should be helplessly and hopelessly in love with our wives, holding every moment of our marriages as sacred and beautiful experiences. These experiences should lead us to give all we have for the sake of our wives.
5)    We are to “leave and cleave” with our wives. In marriage, we leave our former life and join to our wives, becoming one in body and spirit. We forsake all others in order to serve and love our wives. Our marriages should be examples of how the Church is to be as the Bride of Christ.

The truth is that most marriages are a far cry from the kind of sacrificial example Paul illustrates in Ephesians 5. That may be why the Church is still on her way to becoming the spotless Bride she is meant to be. We as Catholic men need to understand what it really means to love our wives as Christ loves the Church. Marriage is about mutual respect, self-sacrifice, and a loving walk toward eternity, day by day. Jesus wants the best for our marriages and He has given us the sacraments to strengthen us, His Word to guide us, and brothers to walk with us as we grow as husbands with our wives.

Connecting to the Theme: Part of our responsibility as husbands is to witness the love of Christ to how we defend, protect, and lift up our wives. As we live faithfully our marriage vows, we stand together with our spouses and witness to the kind of sacrificial love that characterizes our Catholic faith.

Question for Journaling: How can I love my wife the way Christ loves the Church and how can I use our relationship to bring the Kingdom of heaven closer to the lives of others.

Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. (Colossians 3:19)


Day 22 – Pure of Heart, Sound of Mind

How can the young keep his way without fault? Only by observing your words. With all my heart I seek you; do not let me stray from your commandments. In my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes. With my lips I recite all the judgments you have spoken. I find joy in the way of your testimonies more than in all riches. I will ponder your precepts and consider your paths. In your statutes I take delight; I will never forget your word. (Psalm 119:9-20)

Living a morally pure life is a difficult pursuit; and yet Catholic men we are called to keep themselves spiritually clean in this wasteland of a modern world. Temptation is all around us and anything we desire is only a short drive or a mouse click away. We are fed a daily dose of violence, consumerism, and sexuality on our TV and computer screens. Whatever feels good is acceptable and consequence-free. We hide our sins from our spouses, our pastors, and our friends and we think we have escaped the notice of the Lord as well.

But for Catholic men, there must be another way. The Scriptures have much to teach us about what it means to live a pure life. Consider the following ideas:

1)    Purity requires total commitment. We cannot walk the way as a faultless follower without being totally sold out to God’s Word, His commandments, and His Church. We must unlock our hearts and offer them in total submission to God, holding nothing back.
2)    We must desire God’s teachings over our desires. When we seek God with all our hearts, we hunger for His teachings and call out for Him to fulfill His promises in our lives. God’s Law of Love must mean more to us than any pleasure that we can discover in this life.
3)    Purity is a delight that overshadows anything this world offers us. When we truly connect with the power and presence of God, the result is a joy that goes beyond the temporary highs from succumbing to our temptations.
4)    We must transform rather than conform. Paul tells us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice and to renew our minds so that we may discern the will of God (Romans 12:1-2). Conforming to the world leads to death; being transformed by the love of Christ leads to peace and eternal life.
5)    Purity shines in the light. The light of Christ exposes our fleshly desires for what they are, shines upon the narrow way and draws us to one another in fellowship as those who have been cleansed by the blood (1 John 1:7). It is a good place to be.

Rather than seeing living in purity as a burden, we should delight in it. It offers us so much more than any ephemeral earthly pleasure. Those who have discovered the wonder of a life sold out to Jesus know the true pleasure and purpose to be found. We must resist the evil one, submit to God’s loving guidance and cleanse our hearts of all that defiles and divides us (James 4:7-8). A life of purity is not always easy to achieve, but it is always more meaningful and more delightful than anything else this broken world can offer.

Connecting to the Theme: Those who live in purity witness the power of Christ to cleanse us from sin. There are so many men who are trapped in immoral lifestyles who need the stability of a steady Catholic man to hold them accountable and walk with them on the road to the light.

Question for Journaling: What will help me to remain pure in my walk with Jesus and how can I share this experience of joy with other men today?

Who may go up the mountain of the Lord? Who can stand in his holy place? “The clean of hand and pure of heart, who has not given his soul to useless things, what is vain. (Psalm 24:3-4)


Day 23 – Out on the Highways

Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike, and the hall was filled with guests. (Matthew 22:9-10)

There is something about a highway that conjures up images of unknown adventures, new beginnings, and life transformation. Many a man has answered the call of the road to seek new vistas and discover his calling. The highway is a biblical symbol of the road to salvation. Sometimes the way is filled with danger and hardship. Along the way, we may be tempted to stray from the clear and narrow path to heaven to seek the pleasures of the wide road to destruction. Out in the highways the lost are wandering in darkness, looking for someone to lead them home. 

The Catholic Church has been on a journey of evangelization since the beginning, going out on the highways to spread the Gospel and call the lost into the banquet hall. There are so many still who are searching for salvation. They cannot hear the Good News unless we seek them out. Consider this:

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!” (Romans 10:14-15)

What can we as Catholic men contribute to this call to go out onto the highways? Here are some ideas:

1)    We must follow the call of the Master. The servants may not understand why the Master has called those He has called, but their calling is to be the voice and hands and feet of the Lord as we gather the lost into the Kingdom.
2)    It is up to God to judge the hearts of people. In the passage from Matthew, the Master confronts a wedding guest not properly dressed. It was and is for God to decide who has put on the garment of Christ. Our task is seek the lost and lead them into the Church.
3)    Sharing the Gospel is a beautiful thing. The highway may be long and hard, but for those who have made the commitment to go it is a joyful journey, a beautiful transforming experience as we, like tireless couriers, carry the beautiful message of salvation to the ends of the earth.
4)    We are journeymen but also road construction workers. We are called to, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” (Mark 1:2-3). Like workers who clear the rocky road for the return of the King, we help to clear the way for the Lord to enter into the hearts of the lost.
5)    The highway leads ultimately to the house of the Lord. As we seek the lost on the highways of life, our final goal is heaven. Like the pilgrims who made their way joyfully to Jerusalem (Psalm 122), the Church marches triumphantly toward the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Catholic men have been given a great gift in the call to go out into the highways to seek those who long for a clear path to heaven. It is a bold adventure that transforms all who are sent to carry the message of salvation to the ends of the earth. It is a joyful thing to be marching with the Church into eternity, knowing that we have brought into the Kingdom the lonely and the lost.

Connecting to the Theme: Our call to witness becomes clearer as we set out on the road of life and meet those who are lost along the way. Our willingness to answer the call of the highway is a testimony of the saving power of Christ, expressing itself through His Church.

Question for Journaling: How can I answer the call to go out into the world to seek out others and bring them into the Kingdom?

A highway will be there, called the holy way; No one unclean may pass over it, but it will be for his people; no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray on it. (Isaiah 35:8)


Day 24 – Independence Day – Real Freedom

And you who once were alienated and hostile in mind because of evil deeds he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through his death, to present you holy, without blemish, and irreproachable before him, provided that you persevere in the faith, firmly grounded, stable, and not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, am a minister. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Those who live in democratic societies can claim that they are free from the oppression of those in power, yet, for believers in Jesus, we have the greatest freedom of all. The cross is our Declaration of Independence. In the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, we have found our true freedom. Just exactly what the freedom means is something to carefully consider.

Freedom is a two-sided coin. We have been set free from and we have been set free to. Our baptism has set us free from the tyranny of sin and the despair of a life without hope in order that we may live out the gifted life we have been given in Jesus. We are no longer slaves to the evils of this world; and yet, we are sealed in a holy bond to live in ever-increasing sanctification for the sake of Christ.

Let us take a look at what the great cost paid by Jesus Christ has brought to those who believe:

1)    Our freedom is permanent and true. John 8:36 tells us that if the Son of God has set us free, we are truly free. There is no ambiguity about what we have gained in Christ, and nothing that can change the perfect love that bled and died to gain that freedom for us.
2)    Death and sin no longer have power over us. Our old self has been crucified with Christ and we have been raised to new life in Him. While sin may raise its ugly head, ultimately it cannot have mastery over our lives (Romans 6:5-11). We have the power to overcome it in Christ.
3)    Freedom is not a license to sin but the power to love. Some Christians hide behind their freedom and see it as a free pass in life. Catholics understand that it is rather a gift that enables us to conquer sin and love others according to the will of God (See Galatians 5:13-14).
4)    Our freedom makes us a deadly and dangerous weapon of righteousness. We are called to present our bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1). Our lives now become powerful implements of God’s power as we carry out His will (Romans 6:13-14).
5)    Our freedom gives us insight into what is truly for our benefit. In Christ we have the power to choose how we live, and so we know what is for our good and we refuse to be mastered by sin and its effects (1 Corinthians 6:12). We have power to live for Christ alone.

Catholics have been set free from sin and transformed so that we may become the hands and heart of Christ in the world. We know that our baptism has buried us with Christ and raised us up to new life – not just in a legal sense, but in terms of power and potential to do good in the world (See Romans 6:3-4). That is the nature of true freedom: the ability to overcome our sinful nature and to step up to the task of bringing the love of Jesus to the world.!

Connecting to the Theme: The world longs for the freedom we, as Catholics, enjoy. Through the power of Christ – the power that has made us new creations in Him – we have the strength, the desire, and the drive to share the righteousness that has been given to us with those who are held in the bonds of sin and despair. Our freedom is a witness to the great love of Christ and His desire to set all people free!

Question for Journaling: How can I apply the freedom of Christ to all areas of my life, so that I may truly live out that I am truly free?

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17)



Day 25 – Investing in the Future

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

When a child comes into the life of a man it changes him in ways we cannot fully understand. That helpless, innocent life can melt our hearts and cause us to reevaluate our lives. As that child grows we face the incredible responsibility to lead that child into adulthood with love and discipline, sharing our Catholic faith. But oh, how we fail in that task time after time. Before we know it, our children are all grown up and we must stand back and hope that we have given them what they needed to face the world in which they will live as adults. It is a sobering thought indeed!

In 1974, singer Harry Chapin released the song, “Cats in the Cradle.” It told the story of a man who had a son who grew up so quickly before his eyes. When the son learned to talk he said, “I’m gonna be like you, Dad!” The man, however, was so busy with “planes to catch and bills to pay” that he missed out on those precious moments he could have spent with his son. In the end, the boy did grow up to be like his father: too busy to spend time with his dad. The song is a sobering call to cherish those beautiful times with our children before it is too late.

What can God’s Word teach Catholic men about the importance of investing in the lives of our children? Here are some ideas:

1)    The base for our investment is God alone. Many fathers base their childrearing on modern psychology, current culture, or general values. But as Catholics, our parenting must rest on the rock-solid foundation of Christ and His Church. No other foundation will do.
2)    We must offer our children a sold-out example of faith. Our children will indeed become just like us, imitating our ways and following our leads. We must be fully invested in our Catholic faith so that our children can follow the right path to heaven’s door.
3)    Investing is not a single event, but an ongoing repetition. We must continuously place the truth of the Gospel within our children, talking about our faith, leading by example, and teaching with determination. It is these daily investments of faith and love that will eventually add up.
4)    Our faith must be bound to our hands, our heads, and our hearts. We cannot offer a surface-level faith to our children, only showing up at Church for our “obligations.” Our faith must be integrated into our lives, more than words, and wholly a part of our daily living.
5)    We must be approachable, strong, and loving parents. We must lead our children to Jesus (Matthew 19:13-15) and bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). As we invest in their faith, we allow them to become all that God calls them to be.

Even though these ideas speak of our responsibility toward our children, let us not forget the blessing that our children are to us. Consider what the Scriptures tell us:

Certainly sons are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man who has filled his quiver with them. He will never be shamed for he will destroy his foes at the gate. (Psalm 127:3-5)

When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. (John 16:21)

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, 3 and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me. (Matthew 18:1-5)

Our children are our legacy of faith, the fruit of our marital love, and a living, breathing look into the face of Christ. Our investment in the lives of our children brings so much to this world. Can we afford to neglect such a great privilege and incredible responsibility, given to us by Christ?

Connecting to the Theme: For those men who are blessed to become fathers, there can be no more important witness than that which we pass onto our children. The work may at times be difficult, but the rewards for our lives and the Church are immeasurable. 

Question for Journaling: How can I invest more into the lives of my children – and all children – today?

Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it (Proverbs 22:6)



Day 26 – The Constant One…

…but of the Son [God says]: “Your throne, O God, stands forever and ever; and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You loved justice and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, anointed you with the oil of gladness above your companions”; and: “At the beginning, O Lord, you established the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you remain;     and they will all grow old like a garment. You will roll them up like a cloak, and like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” (Hebrews 1:8-12)

In this world there are very few things we can count on consistently. People, institutions, machines, the weather, and the wisdom of man – none are never totally reliable. Money, friends, pleasure, and possessions are only temporary fixes to the deeper personal problem all people have. They offer no permanent solutions to the problems we face and fail to fill the God-sized void within every human heart. Our only hope comes in the One who is our all-powerful, ever-living, and all-loving God.

It is an absolute absurdity that we as Catholic men who are members in the Mystical Body of Christ should ever look to anyone or anything outside of Christ and His Church to solve the issues we face today as men in a broken world. Yet it is exactly what we do. If we know the Scriptures at all, we know that God alone has the power to right the great wrongs of life, to bring good out of every moment gone wrong, and to lead us along the path of salvation to our final resting place in heaven. But men often look to what they can experience with their senses and confirm in their minds. Trusting in the constancy of God is a leap of faith many are too fearful to make.

How do we get from the reality that is before us to the faith that can restore us? How do we grasp with all our minds, hearts, and souls the great truth that God can and will meet our needs because he is the Father who is constant and caring? Consider the following:

1)    This world is temporary; God is eternal. Like an old, worn out coat, the universe will be discarded, yet God remains the same. Recognizing this truth helps us to maintain our perspective and focus our lives more fully on what is essential: that God is the source of our peace.
2)    The world takes until we are dry; God gives until we overflow. Every good gift comes from God, the Father of lights, who never changes like our shadowy world (James 1:17). He desires deeply to give us what we need to weather the storms of life and to live for Him.
3)    God gives us eternal, imperishable, enduring nourishment. Jesus calls us to work, not for what will perish, but for what will last. He gives us the Bread of Life in the Eucharist. He gives us His perfect, inerrant Word to guide us. In Him we are fed, strengthened, and sent forth for service.
4)    Though we are inconsistent, God remains the same. Jesus Christ remains the same, yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Salvation was never an afterthought, nothing we do surprises God, and our sin cannot change God’s love. He blesses us with consistent, perfect grace.
5)    The world destroys God gives abundant life. Satan, through worldly worries, tries to take our life. God, through Jesus gives us perfect, plentiful life (John 10:10).  Abundant life means experiencing God’s perfect peace in all our trials and triumphs as we draw from Him alone.

As we tap into this eternal truth we draw from the abundant well of God’s grace to find the strength we need to face each day before us. Though this world offers us fleeting glories, imperfect solutions, and deceitful joy, God, in Jesus, offers us the treasures of eternity, the power of His presence, and the hope of heaven. The Body of Christ, clothed in the garment of salvation, will last forever. We as Catholic men can let go of all our false hopes and cling to the authority of God as spelled out in the Scriptures and handed onto us through the Church from the beginning. That is our solution. That is our joy. That is our constant comfort for all we do.

Connecting to the Theme: So many men are floundering in the sea of their troubles, desperately trying to tough out a path to peace. Witnessing to the power that we find in the perfect, eternal God who never changes is the way we give assurance and hope to those who are looking for answers to the struggles in their broken lives.

Question for Journaling: How can I connect more deeply to this powerful reality, that God is the eternal source of all the good in my life; and how can I share that glorious hope with another today?

Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy. (Hebrews 10:23)



Day 27 – Living Water

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood up and exclaimed, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as scripture says: ‘Rivers of living water will flow from within him.’” (John 7:37-38)

Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” (John 4:10)

On the Appalachian Trail experienced hikers bring along guidebooks and maps that show them where to find good sources of drinking water. Of course, the water must be filtered or treated in order to make it potable. Without water, hikers cannot finish the journey. Their bodies dry up, they become weak, and even begin to become disoriented. Water is life! 

In the Scriptures, thirst is a symbol of our need for God. In desert cultures, water was so important. Just as men thirsted for a satisfying drink, so too do we as Catholic men thirst for the living water that Jesus provides. What can we learn from the Word of God about what Living Water and how we can apply Jesus’ teaching to our witness to others? Take a look below:

1)    Living Water is flowing fresh water. The woman at the well (John 4) was trying to draw life from what was standing, still, and stagnant. Jesus offered her the overflowing and refreshing water of His very life. Only in Him can we find the fresh satisfaction we need.
2)    Living Water is eternal. Jesus told the women that whoever drank the water He offered would never thirst again (John 4:14). His life is like drinking an ice-cold glass of pure water and feeling that satisfaction over and over again. His satisfaction is everlasting.
3)    Living Water is for all who thirst and ask. Like the woman at the well, Jesus offers all who are thirsty to come drink from the overflowing stream of His love. Like the water poured out as an offering on a holy feast, He pours Himself into our hearts when we come seeking.
4)    Living Water is free, abundant, and prolific. In Isaiah 55 we are invited to bring our thirsty selves to the overflowing water and receive generously from God’s hand. His Living Water rains down upon us and yields a harvest of growth for all who receive.
5)    Living Water is the gift we receive that we can give to others. Like the woman at the well was filled and then poured out that same power to her entire village, we too can share the eternal gift of Christ with everyone who is thirsty. As we share the water flows.

Connecting to the Theme: As Catholic men, we know what it means to be filled with the Living Water of Christ. We also know what it is to feel spiritual dry like the desert. Our experience of Christ’s abundant, overflowing love can become a fountain out of which other lost souls may find satisfaction. As we witness to this Living Water, we discover the source of joy and peace.

Question for Journaling: Who do I know who is thirsting for the Living Water that Jesus offers and in what ways can I share that abundance today?

Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb… (Revelation 22:1)

Day 28 – Them Bones, Them Bones

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he led me out in the spirit of the Lord and set me in the center of the broad valley. It was filled with bones. He made me walk among them in every direction. So many lay on the surface of the valley! How dry they were! He asked me: Son of man, can these bones come back to life? “Lord God,” I answered, “you alone know that.” Then he said to me: prophesy over these bones, and say to them. Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Listen! I will make breath enter you so you may come to life. I will put sinews on you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put breath into you so that you may come to life. Then you shall know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 37:1-6)

The rest of the story is familiar to most Christians. Ezekiel spoke the word of prophecy to the bones and they came to life, becoming a vast army. The Catholic Church sees this as a picture of what Christ has done in giving His life to us. From a small band of men, the Church has grown to a vast army of millions. As we continue the call to breathe new life into dead souls, this army grows.

What lessons does this story have to teach us as Catholic men today? Consider the following:

1)    The world is a dead and desolate land of lost sinners. There is no life outside of Christ and His army, the Church. All is dry and lifeless, with no hope of ever coming into being once more. In a real sense Ezekiel’s vision is a picture of the fate that awaits all who reject the Savior.
2)    Only those who know the Savior can recognize the dry bones and who alone can restore them. Our faith gives us prophets’ hearts, able to recognize the utter aridity of the fallen. Those who are dead in their sins cannot comprehend their state.
3)    Only the breath of God can restore the dead. In our fallen state, human beings have no power to change. Only the grace of God, breathed into our dead souls, can animate our hearts to turn once more toward salvation. It is then that the work of restoration can begin.
4)    At God’s command, the dead come back to life. Just as Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb (John 11), so too does God Word call us back from the grave. Our baptism symbolizes the death and burial of the old, and the rising to new life in the Body of Christ.
5)    The resurrection is God’s proof of His power and His love. Without the resurrection, our faith is in vain and we are to be pitied more than all others (1 Corinthians 15:19). But because of our new life in Christ, we have hope of a better life to come at the Last Day.

Even in the Old Testament, God was revealing clues about the resurrection to come. Even though mankind had sinned again and again, rejecting the love of God to follow idols and selfish goals, our faithful God was working out His eternal plan, showing His people what was to come. We were dead in our sins and yet God gave us His only begotten Son. That is love, pure and simple; and God was announcing it years before Jesus came into the world:

You shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them, my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may come to life, and I will settle you in your land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord. (Ezekiel 37: 13-14)

Connecting to the Theme: The world around us is dead. It may try to have the appearance of life apart from Christ, but it is as dead and dry as the bones in Ezekiel’s vision. God has called us to share our Catholic faith with the lost so that His Spirit may breathe new life into their dry and dead lives.

Question for Journaling: Am I speaking life into those who need the power of Christ to raise them from the dead?

Jesus told [Martha], “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believers in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26)


Day 29 – Men Helping Men

If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:17-18)

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:15-17)

There is a bond we share with one another as Catholic men. Though we may think we connect to one another through our common interests, we connect more closely through the cross of Christ. It is in our weaknesses and struggles that we are able to grow together as men. That is because we draw strength from one another and from Jesus and in doing so, we build each other up within the Body of Christ. The real help we need from other men comes not just in thoughts or prayers, but in action that speaks truth into our lives.

Our love for our brothers manifests itself the most powerfully when we do for them as Jesus would. True Catholic brotherhood is characterized by the following thoughts:

1)    Real brotherly love is action love. We cannot simply offer kind words without backing up those words with good deeds. When we are confronted with a need we must strive to meet it. It is our privilege to serve our brothers out of the abundance God has given us.
2)    Real brotherly love is sacrificial. We must always remember that Jesus laid down His life for us (John 15:13). We should be willing to do the same for our brothers, whether it is lending our time, talent, or treasure whenever they need our help to make it on the journey of life.
3)    Real brotherly love is strong in the storm. Proverbs 17:17 says, A friend is a friend at all times, and a brother is born for the time of adversity. We need to be there for our brothers when times are tough, not just during the easy days. True brothers have their brothers’ backs.
4)    Real brotherly love anticipates needs and serves with mutual honor. We are to honor our brothers by knowing them well enough to understand their needs. We must honor each other with mutual affection (Romans 12:10), always being ready to share our lives.
5)    Real brotherly love has Christ as its source. Because Jesus gave His life in love for us, we can be called His brothers (see Hebrews 2:11-12). His sacrifice has enabled all of us to share in the brotherhood of our Catholic faith, unashamed and uplifted in His strength.

It is in the struggles of life and the living out of our journeys as Catholic men that we discover the gift of brotherhood in Christ. Those who have close relationships with brothers in the faith know how important, how strengthening, and how cleansing that can be. As we lift each other up and live out the Gospel in unity, we become a powerful force for good in the world.

Connecting to the Theme: The witness of mutual brotherly love, inspired by Christ’s death and resurrection, is powerful indeed – and in deed! As we love others with the same love Christ has given us, we share the Gospel in a way that goes beyond words alone.

Question for Journaling: What are some specific ways I may anticipate my brothers’ needs and serve them with strength and sacrificial love today?

How good and how pleasant it is, when brothers dwell together as one! (Psalm 133:1)



Day 30 – Freedom from Shame

Blessed is the one whose fault is removed, whose sin is forgiven. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit. Because I kept silent, my bones wasted away; I groaned all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength withered as in dry summer heat. Selah Then I declared my sin to you; my guilt I did not hide. I said, “I confess my transgression to the Lord,” and you took away the guilt of my sin. Selah (Psalm 32:1-5)

One of the most overwhelming struggles for men to overcome is the shame of past mistakes. When we fail, when we sin, and when we hurt others in the process, it can become an extremely painful part of our lives. It can become like a cancer to our souls and a curse to our bodies. It can bring doubt and fear and keep us from acting to live out our godly goals. It can lead us to live secret, double lives, where we hide our guilt from others for fear of being found out.

But there is an answer to our shame in the forgiveness that comes straight from the cross. Because of the sacrifice of Christ we can come boldly before the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) to receive the mercy God desires to pour into our lives. What can the Scriptures teach us about overcoming shame and finding forgiveness in Christ? Consider the following:

1)    To be forgiven is to be blessed. The word for blessed refers to the kind of happiness that rests contented in the arms of God. When we are forgiven, the great weight and burden of our sin is removed and we are set free to soar to the heights of heaven.
2)    In forgiveness is purity. When we are forgiven we are cleansed, washed clean, and made whole. We stand before God in truth and there is no obstacle of deceit to hinder us from experiencing God’s presence more fully. It is a beautiful experience of clarity and love.
3)    Hiding and holding onto sin crushes our bodies and our spirits. The mind/body/soul connection becomes very apparent when sin has a hold of us. It can manifest itself in emotional and physical symptoms, hinder our prayer life, and make us inactive in our walk with God.
4)    Confession leads to cleansing. It is in the act of confessing our sins that we find the cleansing touch of God’s love brought to bear on our lives. We are set free because the Son is the One who sets us free (John 8:36). As we release our burden, God fills our emptiness with His freeing love.
5)    We put off shame and put on a garment of praise, peace, and power. Like believers at an Easter baptism ceremony, we discard our disgrace and put on the clothing of Christ, the love which is binds us together in perfection and grace (Colossians 3:14).

Shame can stifle our faith. God’s healing grace that comes through Confession cleanses us and gives us the strength to move on. It cancels out the degradation of sin and gives us a fresh start. Because we have put away our shame and found healing in Christ, we can spread that same healing to others by sharing the Good News that the past can be left behind. Like Paul on the Road to Damascus, we can become blinded to what was before in order for the scales to be lifted from our eyes. When we see God as He truly is, we can share that same perfect love with our brothers – and with all we meet on the road to heaven.

Connecting to the Theme: Being one who was lost and is now found freed from sin and shame becomes a powerful witness to those caught in the grip of secret sin, hidden away in a broken heart. The light of the forgiveness we have received will guide those searching for a way out of their painful past.

Question for Journaling: What has God brought you through and how can your life serve as a witness to those around you searching for the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ?

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. (Colossians 3:12-13)
 

 

Catholic Men's Devotional - Days 31-40


Day 31 – The Best Laid Plans…

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what any day may bring forth…Those who tend a fig tree eat its fruit; so those attentive to their master will be honored… Take good care of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds; For wealth does not last forever, nor even a crown from age to age. When the grass comes up and the new growth appears, and the mountain greens are gathered in, The lambs will provide you with clothing, and the goats, the price of a field, And there will be ample goat’s milk for your food, food for your house, sustenance for your maidens. (Proverbs 27: 1. 18, 23-27)

In general, men like order. When we make plans we like to stick to them. We are also providers, and want to make sure our families have what they need. Yet, in this broken world of ours, situations change, people can be fickle, and unpredictable occurrences can pop up at any time. Just when we think everything is fine, a sudden illness comes along, a friend falls away, our employment changes, or some other disaster strikes. These realities teach us that to rely on our best laid plans places us on shaky ground. Still we are called to be attentive to our responsibilities as Catholic men.

What does God have to teach us about our efforts, our plans, and His will? Consider the following:

1)    God cares about our efforts and rewards them. While God is all-powerful and does not need anything (Acts 17:25), He still calls us to take care of the things that matter. As we carry out God’s plans we reap the harvest of our efforts and experience God’s provision.
2)    God is the beginning of all things and the power that binds them. As much as we may feel we have control of our lives, it is God alone who is before all things and who holds them together (Colossians 1:17).  That powerful truth guides us into purposeful living.
3)    God knows and directs our plans for good. God has a future full of hope and not harm for His people; and He hears and answers as we seek him with hearts surrendered to Him (Jeremiah 29:11-13). As we yield to His grace, we discover all that God has in store for us.
4)    God’s purposes for our lives prevail. We make many plans but, in the end, it is God’s will that will stand (Proverbs 19:21). We live, we work, we plan for our future, and in all that, God’s eternal and perfect will still comes to pass. He loves us that much.
5)    God works everything to the good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). God knows all those who belong to Him; and despite our weakness, He brings all things to good. This is who God is and how He loves those who are His own.

God is God and we are not. Our plans must give way to the perfection of His will. James sums up this incredible truth perfectly:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we shall go into such and such a town, spend a year there doing business, and make a profit”— you have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears. Instead you should say, “If the Lord wills it, we shall live to do this or that.” But now you are boasting in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16)

Though we are but dust and ashes, God still allows that we live our lives, working and planning our future – but only as we acknowledge that our plans prevail according to God’s will alone. It is absurd for men to think and act as though they are at the helm of their lives – and in fact God says it is evil! Though we have no guarantee of our next breath, we exist, we prosper, and we gain heaven all because of the love of God given to us in Christ.

Connecting to the Theme: One of the biggest obstacles to freedom in Christ is our boasting and pride. Yielding to the perfect will of God is a powerful witness to others of His love for us. As we surrender to heaven’s control, we are set free to become all that God desires us to be.

Question for Journaling: How am I yielding to the perfect, loving will of God and how can I live in total surrender as I carry on day by day?

Entrust your works to the Lord, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)


Day 32 – When Things Fall Apart

God is our refuge and our strength, an ever-present help in distress. Thus we do not fear, though earth be shaken and mountains quake to the depths of the sea, though its waters rage and foam     and mountains totter at its surging. Selah

Streams of the river gladden the city of God, the holy dwelling of the Most High. God is in its midst; it shall not be shaken; God will help it at break of day. Though nations rage and kingdoms totter,     he utters his voice and the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah

Come and see the works of the Lord, who has done fearsome deeds on earth; Who stops wars to the ends of the earth, breaks the bow, splinters the spear, and burns the shields with fire; “Be still and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.” he Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob. Selah (Psalm 46)

These are troubling times. We face war, terrorism, deep political and ideological divisions, and a host of struggles that tear at the fabric of our society and challenge our Catholic faith. It can be overwhelming at times. As men, we wish we could face these fights head on and find real solutions and lasting peace; but in truth, things seem to be getting worse.

Thanks be to God that He is in control of our lives, that He is the rock upon which our faith stands. It takes the pressure off what it means to be a man. It allows us to let go and accept our need for God. Let us look at some of the powerful truths that spring from this amazing psalm:

1)    The shaking of the earth does not shake God. In section 1 of psalm 46, there is a contrast between the rock-steady strength of the Lord and the raging “temper tantrum” of the earth. Though all is falling apart around us, we can always look to the One who never is shaken.
2)    We are moved from the trembling earth to the glad city of God. The chaos and violence of the world gives way to a vision where the overflowing streams of the Lord gladden the heavenly city. As God touches our lives, His goodness overflows into us and we find gladness in Him.
3)    With a word, God can bring the fury of the fight to an end. Some speculate about the end of the world and the battles God will wage with the enemies of the Light. But in truth, God only needs to speak to defeat His enemies and bring victory to His people.
4)    God’s power causes wars to cease and enemies to be consumed. God’s return to the earth will be like holy fire, destroying the wicked and bringing peace to His people. He is the rock, the refuge to which we can come. In Him, our foundation and our security is firm.
5)    Psalm 46 begins and ends with presence and strength.  The psalm is bracketed with the power and presence of God. He never leaves us and He is the rock that can never be moved. No matter what we face today, God remains our refuge in the storm.

When we are struggling with loss, illness, division, sin, or pride, when the world and its institutions are crumbling before our very eyes, still we can rest in the perfect truth that God forever remains our refuge and our strength. We have little to no control over the situations of our lives, but the beautiful truth is this – we don’t have to have control. God, the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving Father holds time and space and the affairs of man in His tender, wonder-working hands. 

Connecting to the Theme: When others see the calm in our demeanor and the unshakable faith that radiates from our lives, it points the way to the God who is our refuge and strength. That is a powerful witness to the Gospel in action and it will draw others closer to Christ and the Church.

Question for Journaling: How can I thank God for being my rock and how can I draw nearer to Him when the world around me is falling apart?

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord, their refuge in a time of distress. (Psalm 37:39)



Day 33 – It’s the End of the World and We Know It…and I Feel Fine!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

At times it feels like the world is getting worse and not better. People are divided politically, culturally, and spiritually. There are wars and rumors of wars, poor people suffering all over the globe, and selfishness and sin at an all-time high. It might seem like God has forgotten us, but Jesus talked about this extensively (See Matthew 24). It is all part of living in a broken world. But there is hope. The cross brought salvation and began the Church. We are on a journey through the storms of history with the heavenly throne room in sight. The Church has gone through her infancy and adolescence and is coming into maturity as her people continue to fight the good fight of faith.

What can Catholics take away from God’s Word concerning our hopeful future? Consider the following:

1)    The new is coming and the old will pass away. We sometimes forget that the way the world is now is not how it will always be. Jesus promises that there will be a new heaven and a new earth where all the evils of the past will vanish away.
2)    Like a bride, the Church is being readied for her wedding. In the early Church, a bride was given a ceremonial bath before her wedding. Jesus is purifying His bride for the great wedding feast that is to come. We are marching down the aisle as we prepare to meet the groom.
3)    God will dwell with His people in the world to come. This is a truth we often gloss over: that God loves us so much that He came to us as a man and, in the end, will dwell with us forever in a joyful eternity. We need to embrace this reality and never let go.
4)    Our tears and our struggles will be nothing compared to what is to come. Romans 8:18-25 talks about how creation is groaning as in labor, as it awaits the new birth to come. We have been given the firstfruits of heaven through the cross, yet the best is yet to come!
5)    We will pass through the rising waters or the raging fire and find heaven. The trials shall not sweep us away or consume us (Isaiah 43:2) for the power that raised Christ from the dead lives in us and is carrying the People of God to our final home, our new Jerusalem.

We know we can hold on through the storms of life because we can trust the One who holds the lightning in His hand (Job 36:32) and calms every storm (see Luke 8:22-25). God, who is all-powerful is also all-loving.

Connecting to the Theme: One of the greatest obstacles to coming to Christ is giving an answer for the struggle in the world. As men, we need to proclaim the powerful truth that the best is yet to come to others so that they can discover the same hope that is ours.

Question for Journaling: How can I see my struggles in light of the promises of what is to come and how can I apply that powerful truth to the lives of others as well?

So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
 

 

Day 34 – Sorrow and Hope

“Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble. They spring up like flowers and wither away; like fleeting shadows, they do not endure… A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed…“If only you would hide me in the grave and conceal me till your anger has passed… All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come…You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin. (Job 14:1-2, 5, 13, 15-17)

There is a beautiful rendition of Job 14 by a Christian artist named Fernando Ortega that captures the sorrow and the hope of suffering perfectly. While the singer quotes directly from the passage, the haunting refrain sounds in the depths of the listener’s heart and echoes so well the struggle to understand the purpose for suffering. In one sense, it remains a mystery, deep within the heart of God; yet as we experience our suffering in the presence of His perfect love.

Catholic men are not immune from struggle and pain. Our faith does not shield us from suffering and the grief that goes along with it. And yet if we are grounded in Christ, linked through the cross to the One who gave His life for our sins, we are able to weather the storms of life and find the peace that passes all our understanding.

How do we discover comfort in the midst of trouble, hope in the midst of grief. The Scriptures are filled with passages showing how the experience of sorrow is transformed into hope through the perfect love of God. Take a look at these ideas:

1)    Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, God is there (Psalm 23:4). Our Lord is the One who leads us through our darkest days into the light of hope. He conquers the enemies around us and moves us along the way to pastures where we receive His abundant comfort once more. 
2)    God preserves our lives from the pit (Psalm 30:1-6). We rejoice because in Christ, we have been rescued from hell and brought to a place where our enemies may gloat no more. He has heard our cries for deliverance. Though we experience tears of sorrow in the darkness of our suffering, there will come a time when the light of His love will cause us to celebrate with joy.
3)    As we are comforted, so we will comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). God pours out all His comfort and grace upon our troubles and we find rest once more. We then become strong enough to take that same comfort to others. Our sufferings are a sharing in the sufferings of Christ on the cross; our comfort too abounds through the same Jesus who has loved us to the full.
4)    Those who mourn are blessed (Matthew 5:4). God has promised to comfort those who suffer grief. In our sorrow, we touch the very heart of the One who bore our sorrows and took them to the cross for us. Those who mourn are not blessed because of their sorrow, but because it opens their eyes to see and touch the comforting presence of God.
5)    God heals the brokenhearted and binds our wounds (Psalm 147:3). We may suffer and feel as through the suffering will never end, but the Bible promises us that God does indeed heal our hearts and bind our wounds. He does not abandon us nor forsake us, but walks with us every step of the way, bringing His healing power to bear on our broken lives.

The link between sorrow and hope finds its meaning in the transforming power of Christ and the cross. As we surrender to His tender care and understand that He experienced the sufferings of humanity, bearing all our burdens unto death, we touch the eternal power that leads us through our suffering into hope, the hope that makes all things new.

Connecting to the Theme: Understanding how sorrow and hope are linked through Christ enables us to live out our Catholic faith in a powerful way. Our transformation from the depths of sorrow to the joy of hope is an incredible witness of God’s love and the power to be found in His Church.

Question for Journaling: How has my journey through suffering shaped my faith and how can I share that with others today?

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)


Day 35 – Let’s be Honest…

There are six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to him; Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that plots wicked schemes, feet that are quick to run to evil, The false witness who utters lies, and the one who sows discord among kindred. (Proverbs 6:16-19)

Most of us have probably heard the phrase, “Honesty is the best policy.” but whether that virtue is not lived out by the world around us is another story. Even in our own lives, we may have moments when we struggle with honesty. But to the Catholic man, our integrity is foundational to all our living. It is the cement that holds our relationships together in love. Indeed, truthful living is really the most loving way we can be. 

When we lose sight of our integrity, we lose touch with our identity as Catholic men. Everything in our lives is thrown out of sync. We begin traveling down a dark path where sinful thoughts lead to wrong actions and discord within the Body of Christ. This slippery slope, where the first falsehood leads to further rationalization, which leads to more lies, can result in a life wasted on wicked schemes and isolation. But there is another way.

What do the Scriptures have to teach us about honesty? Consider the following verses:

1)    Whoever walks blamelessly is safe, but one whose ways are crooked falls into a pit. (Proverbs 28:18) Honesty is a narrow path that carries us through trials and temptations to the safe path of a pure life. When we deviate from that path, we stumble and fall over our own lies.
2)    The honesty of the upright guides them; the faithless are ruined by their duplicity. (Proverbs 11:3) Honesty is a single-mindedness of purpose, a faithful road map to heaven. Those who reject honesty become conflicted, double-minded, and confused as to which way will lead home. 
3)    Stop lying to one another, since you have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9-10) Integrity is a self-renewing garment, ever shaping us to deeper purity in God’s image.
4)    Therefore, putting away falsehood, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Ephesians 4:25) Honesty builds more trusting relationships within the Church. We must put off the lies in order to connect more deeply with our family of faith.
5)    To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3) We could do a thousand good deeds and give up all we own, but without that deep, honest, loving commitment to integrity, they will never matter. God is pleased when we put His truth first.

Honesty is a life-long discipline that grows deeper with every truth we experience. As we live as men of truth, we become pillars of strength to those around us, and build up the Body of Christ. When we fail to live as men of integrity, we tear down the bonds of love with other Catholics and fail to follow the will of God. Let us strive to be honest with ourselves, our world, our Church, and our God!

Connecting to the Theme: The world is watching us to see if we are truly living out what we say we believe. An honest, pure-living Catholic man is a powerful witness to other men who experience the ongoing lies of people and institutions on a daily basis. As we live in integrity, we offer a safe haven from falsehood and give credibility to our faith and our Church.

Question for Journaling: Am I living as a man of integrity and how can I continue to work to be honest and pure in how I seek God’s truth and live it out in the world around me?

Be eager to present yourself as acceptable to God, a workman who causes no disgrace, imparting the word of truth without deviation. (2 Timothy 2:15)


Day 36 – Accountability Partners

Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he is deluding himself. Each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason to boast with regard to himself alone, and not with regard to someone else; for each will bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1-5)

One of the hardest roles a Catholic man may face is to walk beside a brother who has strayed from the narrow path. It is not easy to confront sin or to correct the sinner. In doing so, we risk being reprimanded, ridiculed, and rejected. We risk also losing our brother to the enemy. On the other hand, if we do nothing, there is the possibility that our brother may fall deeper into sin and walk away from the Church altogether. Tension within the Body of Christ is never easy, but it is often very necessary.

So how does a Catholic man confront his brother in order to turn him from his sin? How direct must we be? What is the best approach? Based on these and other verses, we can learn a few ways:

1)    Truth is crucial but gentleness is key. While we must respond to sin from a spiritual perspective, we need to do so in a way that is caring and kind. “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) should be our foundational guide as we approach our brother about his sin.
2)    We must bear each other’s’ burdens for the sake of love. We cannot confront sin without loving the sinner. We must walk along side our brother, bearing the burden as a member of the Body, for when one part suffers, all the members suffer as well (1 Corinthians 12:26).
3)    We need to be careful that we ourselves do not fall. Pride, arrogance, and over-confidence in our abilities can lead us into the same sins that we point out in our brothers’ lives (1 Corinthians 10:12). Though we bear one another’s burdens, we are responsible for our own sins.
4)    Transparency, confession, and forgiveness lead to a stronger Body. As we share our failings honestly and pray for healing (James 5:16) we share in the power of the Holy Spirit to unite us and restore us as a family of faith. As we forgive, we grow stronger as a Church.
5)    Compassion carries on the saving power of the cross. We are called to show kindness and compassion to one another, forgiving as we have been forgiven in Christ (Galatians 4:32). The same power that saves us, is meant to spread into the Body of Christ and beyond.

As we carry God’s Word, the teachings of the Church, and our own experiences of healing in how we speak to the issue of sin, we bring reconciliation and restoration both to individuals and to the Church. Our truth must be tempered by tenderness, our wisdom given as we walk the narrow way together as saints saved from sin by grace. We are called to confess our sins to one another, make peace for the sake of the Gospel and the building up of the Body, and together guard our hearts as we grow in faith and unity. There is no room for superiority, for without the grace of Christ, we would fail in our journeys as Catholic men. Confronting sin is more about sharing burdens than preaching repentance. It is more about self-examination and humility than it is about handing down truth to a broken soul.

Connecting to the Theme: How we confront sin is as important as why we confront sin. Many of us have experienced the cruel correcting tongue of a self-righteous and superior Christian who felt compelled to point out our sin. That kind of arrogance is a poor witness to the Gospel. It is only when we travel the road to recovery with our brothers that the Gospel is fully shared.

Question for Journaling: How may I get more in touch with my own walk so that, when I see sin in my brothers, I may tread lightly and gently work to restore our relationship within the Body of Christ?

My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)


Day 37 – Don’t Let Fret Get to You!

Do not be provoked by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong. Like grass they wither quickly;     like green plants they wilt away. Trust in the Lord and do good that you may dwell in the land and live secure. Find your delight in the Lord who will give you your heart’s desire. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will act and make your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like noonday. Be still before the Lord; wait for him. Do not be provoked by the prosperous, nor by malicious schemers. Refrain from anger; abandon wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm. Those who do evil will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord will inherit the earth. (Psalm 37:1-9)

The world can be a frightening place. Sometimes it seems that the cruel and selfish are winning the fight. We may be tempted to give in to our fears, to believe that all our efforts to remain faithful are simply futile and wasted. But God’s perspective is different. He sees the end from the beginning. He is the sovereign Lord of all things and He alone keeps them in existence. He knows the plans He has for us and they are hopeful and good (Jeremiah 29:11).

In some sense, it is part of being a man to fret about life. We seemed programmed to recognize trouble and seek practical solutions to solve our problems. But when life and the evils of the world begin to overwhelm us, we need to go deeper into the truth of our Catholic faith. God’s Word has much to say about how we keep worry from getting the best of us. Consider the following:

1)    Humans are fragile and fade away. While it may seem like bad people succeed while the faithful suffer, this condition is temporary. In the end, leaders pass away, kingdoms crumble to dust, and wealth perishes. In the end, God is the One who remains.
2)    Trust triumphs over doubt and fear. Our security depends not on our own efforts, but on the loving care of our sovereign Savior. We are called to believe and to labor according to His will. As we surrender to God’s care, we find rest and refuge from the worries of the world.
3)    Our days should be filled with delight. As we come to dwell in the shadow of God’s protective reach, we find an inexpressible joy cannot be snuffed out by the struggles of life. As we seek God fully, we find fullness of hope and are transformed into all we are meant to be in Christ.
4)    As we trust, we become shining stars. With God’s light to support us, we become powerful witnesses to the world. Others see in us the face of the One who loves us through our trials, the One who causes our lives to reflect His glory to a darkened world.
5)    Those who are protected cannot be provoked. The world will try to push us into anger and retaliation, yet, we have the strength to respond with love and patience to those who would try to break us. In the end, the evil will be cut off; those who trust in God will inherit the earth.

This does not mean we let the world have its way. We are still called to compete well for our faith, to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12), as we live out our lives according to God’s will. What this does mean is that we contend with the world with the perspective that comes from resting in the arms of an almighty, loving Creator, knowing that we have been set free by the Savior of the world. As faithful Catholic men we understand how to hold these truths in harmony within our hearts, as we move forward in the journey toward heaven. Through the Holy Spirit, we find the good counsel we need to endure the trials and find victory in the end.

Connecting to the Theme: A calm Catholic man who remains faithful in the storms of life is a shining witness to those who are tossed by the winds of change and buffeted by the waves of difficult circumstances. We can become a rock-steady refuge for others because we ourselves are resting on the rock of Jesus Christ – the Church. 

Question for Journaling: What worries in my life do I need to surrender to God’s perfect, loving care, and how will I make the time to strengthen my faith through times of prayer, study, and fellowship with other Catholic men?

Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7) 
 

 

Day 38 – Shoes of the Fisherman

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)

In 1968, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer released the movie, Shoes of the Fisherman, a film about the life of a humble Ukrainian Archbishop named Kiril Lakota. Lakota (Anthony Quinn) is set free after two decades as a political prisoner in a Gulag in Siberia. He is brought to Rome and is made a Cardinal. After the sudden death of the pope, Kiril’s genuineness of character and unique life experiences move the College of Cardinals to choose him as the next pope. Pope Kiril I comes to the papacy with much self-doubt, and must face the threat of Russia and China teetering on the brink of war, with the Chinese facing starvation due to trade restrictions imposed by the United States. This humble man of God must make serious and far-reaching choices to address this global issue with the compassion of Christ through the Church.

The Catholic Church believes that Jesus placed the care of his Church into the hands of His twelve disciples, giving Peter a primacy above the others and making him the “rock” upon which he built His Church. It is why Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter (which means “rock”), for Peter was a man of faith, whose strong will was tempered by trials so that he became leader of the believers and shaped the course of the Church from the beginning. The Church holds that Peter’s successors have been called to assume the role of fathering the Church through all her years of growth, from infancy to maturity. Though many men who held this title struggled with their own frailties and sin, the Church endured and through the popes, has continued to follow in the shoes of the humble fisherman from Galilee.

What can Catholic men learn from the example of Peter, and the subsequent popes who have had to fill his shoes? And what can we learn about Christ’s plan for His Church. Take a look at some ideas below:

1)    Though the world has it ideas about Christ, the Church speaks the truth. Only the Catholic Church has consistently proclaimed that Jesus is the God-Man who came to earth to save us from our sins and lead His Church through the ages until He comes again.
2)    It is through the Holy Spirit that the leaders of the Church continue in truth. Though the Church has suffered from the corruption of frail human beings, the Holy Spirit has kept the Church alive and brought her through her trials to where she is today.
3)    The pope is charged with building the Church on the rock of faith begun by Peter. It is Peter’s faith that was the foundation of the Church and that same faith that works in the Holy Father and all leaders that will move the Church forward until the end of the age.
4)    Hell will not prove stronger than the Church. As she moves forward the Church will break down the gates of hell that hold men’s souls in prison and rescue the lost from sin. The humble, spiritual leadership of the Catholic Church will win the battle for the Kingdom of God.
5)    The Church has the keys to the Kingdom. The leadership of the Church has been given the authority to bind and loose, to proclaim truth and refute error, to care for the poor and challenge all nations to come to Christ. It is a privilege and a power that has always prevailed.

That same spirit that moves in the Holy Father, and in every priest and religious within the Church, moves also in the heart of every Catholic man. The proclamation of Peter teaches us two important things: 1) We can trust the Holy Spirit to guide the Church through her leaders into truth, and 2) All men are called to live out our lives in humble service to the Church and the world, knowing we too are guided by that same Holy Spirit. We rest on the authority of the Church, confident that, despite the frailties of humanity, she will continue in her great work of spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and that she will triumph in the end.

Connecting to the Theme: As we submit to the authority of the Church we give witness to the power and authority behind all that we do as servants of the Gospel. Yet, we are called to help shape the very thing that has shaped us, to work for the Kingdom by using the gifts we have been given by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the Church and its members.

Question for Journaling: How may I increase my knowledge of the Church and her leader, the pope; and how will I work to spread the Gospel and the teachings of the Church to all those around me?

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:17)


Day 39 – Ashamed of Me?

He summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? What could one give in exchange for his life? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)

It has been a long-standing joke that in many churches the wives attend while their husbands take the credit; but for Catholic men, this is no joke. Men are called to be leaders in their families, partners with their wives, and examples to their children. Yet, many of us seem to be ashamed of what it means to be a member of the Body of Christ. We are afraid to share our faith and reluctant to get involved in ministry in the Church. It is like the old question, “If you were arrested for being a Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

The Catholic faith means more than simply participating in the rituals and rites of the Church. It also means committing our minds, our hearts, and our very souls to the cause of Christ. Consider the truths that rise up from this reading:

1)    We are called to deny, take up, and follow. Jesus speaks in no uncertain terms about what it means to believe in Him. We must put ourselves aside in order to accept the trials God will give us as we walk the journey of salvation, trusting God no matter where that may lead.
2)    It is all opposites. Too many men put themselves first, but Christ calls us to surrender our lives in order to gain true life. Those of us who try to hold on to our lives will, in the end, be forever lost. As Catholics we must put the Gospel, and not ourselves, first. There is no other way to heaven.
3)    There is no comparison in the costs. We could gain untold wealth, fame, or power, but when heaven and earth pass away, all of that will be lost – and so will we. Yet, when we put Christ first, we gain all the riches of the universe, for we gain the Lord Jesus Christ.
4)    If we are ashamed of Christ, He will be ashamed of us. That is a frightening and sorrowful thought. Consider the image of a man standing before Jesus and hearing the words, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23) This should not be.
5)    Christ is coming into His glory. In the end, Jesus Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. We need to consider just what that will mean for those who reject the Gospel and our call to live our lives for the Kingdom. Each day is a participation in that Kingdom Come!

Matthew’s Gospel has a chilling word for those who do not stand up for the Gospel:

Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father. (Matthew 10:32-33)

The Catholic life is a life of total surrender to the One who surrendered His life for us. We should take great joy in the total restoration we will share as members of the Kingdom. In the end, we will experience the perfect unity of the eternal Kingdom that has come from our participation in the journey that began at the cross and will find its fulfillment on the last day.

Connecting to the Theme: Our witness as Catholic men depends on our willingness to accept the call to follow Christ with all our minds, hearts, and souls. To be ashamed of Christ is to fail in our call to witness to the Gospel. We are either for Jesus or against Him.

Question for Journaling: What areas of my life do I hold back from Jesus and how can I turn any doubt I feel into confident surrender to the cause of Christ?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek. (Romans 1:16)


Day 40 – Where Do We Go From Here?

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

The Gospel of Matthew ends with Jesus commissioning His disciples to go into the whole world to draw others into the Kingdom of God. That commission has continued in the Church down through the ages; and Catholic men have been answering that call. Being a witness for Jesus is a great responsibility, an incredible privilege, and an inexpressible joy! Christ has gifted His people to carry out His will. We are His hands and feet, eyes and ears, and all we say and do can be a sharing of the Good News with a weary world.

Just what this great commission means is perhaps beyond our human understanding, and yet, as members of the Church, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us in the work we do for the Kingdom. Consider the following:

1)    Like the disciples, we are called to follow Jesus. The eleven went to the mountain where Jesus had called them. As members of the Church, we have been called to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles, the martyrs, and all the saints. To be a witness for Christ is our heavenly goal.
2)    The response to our calling is worship or doubt. We can either fall in surrender before our King or reject who He is. Whatever our response, Jesus is still Lord. He continues to call all people to come to Him, and He continues to call men to be His witnesses to the world.
3)    Jesus approaches us with authority. Our Lord gave up His heavenly throne to live among us as a man, and He continues to approach His people with the same love that brought Him down from heaven. He and He alone, because of the cross, has the authority to call us to follow.
4)    We are called to make disciples, baptize, and teach. This call is not to make conversions, but to make disciples. We are to lead people to Christ and to walk with them every step of the journey to heaven, drawing them into the sacramental life and the teachings of the Church.
5)    He is with us always. Perhaps we should take the last sentence in Matthew’s Gospel as a command: to behold – to take in – that Jesus is with us – forever! Accepting that we have the presence of Christ to guide us is foundational to our witness to the lost in this world.

As we conclude this 40-day spiritual journey, let us remember that we have not made it alone. As Catholic men, we have the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, and the teachings of the Church as our counsel, our comfort, and our commission. We stand as witnesses, side by side with our brothers in the faith. Empowered by the Spirit, informed by the Gospel, and nourished by the sacraments, we are strengthened to shine like stars before all the world. Let us take that challenge seriously and live it out joyously, knowing that our greatest reward is yet to come! One day, we will see the fruit of our efforts, the result of our faith and charitable work for the Gospel. And what a glorious day that will be!

Connecting to the Theme: The only place to go from here is out into the world to win the world for Christ. Our witness comes from our words and actions, our faith and our hope. Our witness has the power to change lives and build up the Church. Together as Catholic men, we are given the privilege of helping to shape the thing that has shaped us. May we always live out this glorious call!

Question for Journaling: Where will I go from here and what steps will I take to continue to answer the call to live my life totally sold out for Jesus Christ?

The one who gives this testimony says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)