Be a Man!
I recently came across this reflection on two very different approaches to living out the masculine identity:
“Consider the lives of two men. One of them, Max Jukes, lived in New York. He did not believe in Christ or give Christian training to his children. He refused to take his children to church, even when they asked to attend. He had 1026 descendants—300 of whom were sent to prison for an average term of 13 years, some 190 were public prostitutes, and 680 were admitted alcoholics. His family members cost the State in excess of $420,000—thus far—and they had made no known positive contributions to society.
Jonathan Edwards lived in the same state at the same time. He loved the Lord and saw that his children were in church every Sunday. He served the Lord to the best of his ability. Of his 929 descendants, 430 were ministers, 86 became university professors, 13 became university presidents, 75 wrote positive books, 7 were elected to the U.S. Congress, and one served as the Vice-President of the United States. His family never cost the State one cent, but contributed immeasurably to the common good.
Ask yourself… if my family tree began with me, what fruit might it bear 200 years from now?”
— God’s Little Devotional Book for Dads (Honor Books), p.91
Despite our culture’s best attempts to emasculate manhood and eradicate fatherhood, God’s designs for the human family will never be thwarted, even should the “family” pass through a grave crisis. There are natural and spiritual principles at work in our lives and our world that can no more be disregarded than the law of gravity. Not only is the role of men not obsolete, it is perhaps more crucial now than ever before. The fact is that your sons and daughters, whether they be actual or spiritual, are watching you. Your wife--currently or in the future--is waiting for you. The world is hoping for you. The saints are praying for you. God is calling you to step forward. What are they all looking for?
Those two words conjure up a lot of images, and most of them fall short of the true man: muscular, strong, bold, determined, fearless, etc. You’ll see among many today a much more severely flawed image of a “real man”: sexy, techy, owner of big toys, frequent use of the “f” word, virile, ambitious, flirtatious, “open minded” regarding truth (aka not committed to seeking after, living in, or coming to the defense of it), focused on external appearances and the things of this world, etc. In contrast, while many Christian movements have indeed done a lot to help men become men again, there can also be a temptation to work the crowd into a kind of warrior, Christian soldier, go-take-on-the-world froth. While defending life and truth are noble, this too falls short of real manhood.
Instead, Jesus, the greatest man alive, reveals the pinnacle of manhood on the eve of His Passion:
"He rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist… So when he had washed their feet [and] put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “…If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, so you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:4-15)
At first, the imagery might seem emasculating, even offensive. It certainly put off Peter. But if you really begin to live what Jesus models, then you quickly realize the raw strength, virtue, and willpower necessary to lay down one’s life…. To put down your tools to change a diaper. To let another have the last word. To shut down the computer to read a story to your children. To pause the game to fix a broken tap. To set aside your work to make a salad. To keep your mouth closed when you’re angry. To take out the garbage without being asked. To shovel the snow or mow the lawn without complaining. To apologize when you know you’re in the wrong. To seek unity and healing in a relationship even when the other won’t. To not curse when you’re annoyed. To help out with the dishes. To be gentle and forgiving always--especially when your wife is not. To keep gently knocking on the door and pursuing a heart that has closed itself off to Love. To listen with the intent to hear rather than respond. To choose unselfish Love especially when you know that this choice will be met with indifference and rejection. To go to Confession and Adoration frequently. To get down on your knees and spend time with the Lord every. single. day.
Jesus defined the image of a real man once and for all:
"You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant" (Matthew 10:42-43)
And then He showed you what true masculinity looks like when He laid down on a Cross and died for you.
When you look at the Crucifix, do you see pathetic weakness or incredible strength? Do you see self-centered and self-reliant love that leads to death, or unselfish and fearless love that is the path to abundant life?
Here is the key to recognizing why Jesus’ life of service and Law of Love is NOT about being some kind of divinized doormat:
"No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again." (John 10:18)
Jesus was not forced to serve or to forgive those who condemned and murdered Him. He was not ordered to seek the lost or love the unlovable: He freely chose (and still, freely chooses) to give Himself away in order to reveal the truth, goodness, and beauty of authentic love.
"Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…" (Phil 2:8-9)
Though you may be the authority of your home and the head of your wife, imitate the humility of Jesus. Empty yourself, and you will find yourself; become a true servant, and you will become a man; lay down your life for others, and you will find it again, as it should be: remade in God’s image.
For His image is also the reflection of a real man. Pontius Pilate even seemed to understand this when He presented the Suffering Servant to the masses:
"Ecce homo"...Behold the Man! (John 19:5)
While we have no recorded words of St. Joseph in Scripture, there is a pivotal moment in his life when he indeed became a real man. It was the day his dreams were crushed—when he learned that his beloved Mary was pregnant.
An angel appeared to him in a dream and revealed his future path: to lay down his life for his wife and her Child. It meant a serious change in plans. It meant certain humiliation. It meant total trust and surrender to Divine Providence.
"When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home." (Matt 1:24)
If you wish to become a real man, then not only imitate Jesus but take Mary into your home too, that is, your heart. Let her mother you, teach you, and lead you on the path toward union with God. She knows perfectly what it is to be a beloved child of the Father. She knows perfectly the Sacred Heart of her Son--the greatest man that ever lived--and who still lives! Mary knows perfectly what it means to be attuned to the promptings of her spouse, the Holy Spirit, and what true surrender to Him looks like. Go to her. Learn from the school of trust, love, surrender, and obedience that is contained within her Immaculate Heart. St. Joseph did. Jesus did. So did St. John, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. John Paul II, and the greatest men that the world will ever see; the saints.
“Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home." (John 19:27)
Consecrate yourself to this Woman, as they did, and she will truly help you to become a man of God; a man after God’s own Heart. After all, if she was deemed worthy enough to raise the Son of God, she’s certainly worthy enough for us guys too.
St. Joseph… St. John… St. John Paul II...St. Luke...St. Maximilian Kolbe...Ven. Bishop Fulton Sheen... St. Louis...all you holy men...Mary, Mother of Love, Queen of the Eternal Victory, pray for us.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.
You may contact Luke at: firstname.lastname@example.org