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)