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)