Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. Be mindful of prisoners as if sharing their imprisonment, and of the ill-treated as of yourselves, for you also are in the body. Let marriage be honored among all and the marriage bed be kept undefiled, for God will judge the immoral and adulterers. Let your life be free from love of money but be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never forsake you or abandon you." Thus we may say with confidence:
"The Lord is my helper, (and) I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?"
Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teaching. It is good to have our hearts strengthened by grace and not by foods, which do not benefit those who live by them. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. (Hebrews 13:1-10)
It can be tempting to read this passage and accept it as little more than a collection of encouraging words. However, let’s try to use these Scripture verses as an “instructional manual” on how we should live out this Lenten season of grace as Catholic men. After all, it’s clear that the author of Hebrews was trying to encourage his readers to love one another as brothers (and sisters) in Christ. He wrote about being hospitable to strangers, remembering those in prison, working hard to build marriages, and steering clear of a thirst for more and more money. But underlying these exhortations is the assurance of God’s continuing presence and help—something that we all need to take seriously.
It can be difficult at times to show love for other people. Sometimes we feel that we can barely cope with our own problems, let alone those of others. We may opt for isolation instead of involvement and hesitate at the thought of opening ourselves or our homes to strangers. This kind of preoccupation with our own problems, rather than on God’s love for us and others, can blind us to the needs of neighbors, relatives, or even family members.
Despite our weaknesses, the author of Hebrews tells us about the best coping mechanism we could ever have: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the only one who can change us. His love is the only thing that can lift our burdens and heal our wounds. As we come to know him, the one who conquered sin and death, we will see him work wonders in our lives and others’ lives. We will see him heal our isolation and self-concern. We will see him move us to reach out to others, and we will see lives changed and transformed. We will also find the healing and hope that we all long for as well.
St. Jerome Emiliani (1481-1537) urged the members of his religious order to trust in God alone. His words still speak to us today: “God fills with love those who trust and hope in him alone, and he does great things in them. If then you have faith and hope, he will exalt you in your humility and do wonderful things through you.”
So as we begin Lent, let’s make it our goal to focus more on Jesus and others, and less on ourselves. Let’s try to make his ways our ways. Even just a little progress can help us immensely. Let’s also ask the Holy Spirit to show us the times when we are too immersed in ourselves and not interested enough in serving other people. Little steps of kindness, generosity, and understanding can go a long way toward lifting up the spirits of our friends and loved ones.
With faith, hope, and humility this Lent, we can all become instruments of God’s healing and love to a broken world.
“Lord, as we approach the season of Lent, I ask you to give me the grace to help me look beyond my own world. Help me see things as you see them. Father, help m e guard against self-absorption. Just as you have reached out to me, I want to reach out to others.”
Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/ ), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism , (http://www2.wau.org/partners/ ), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/ ).
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us for allowing us to adapt material from daily meditations in their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
- Take a few minutes to reflect on the Scripture verses from Hebrews 13:1-10 on how we should live as Catholic men. What steps can you take to better live them out during Lent?
- It is so easy to get so wrapped up with our own difficulties and circumstances that we forget about the needs of others. What are some of the issues that you are facing right now that can cause this to happen?
- The Scriptures from Hebrews also remind us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Everything we have comes from Christ, including our talents, and even our strength to persevere no matter what the circumstances. How often do you turn to the Lord during the day when faced with difficulties? What steps can you take to turn to the Lord more often each day during Lent?
- Reflect on St. Jerome Emiliani’s encouraging words: “God fills with love those who trust and hope in him alone, and he does great things in them. If then you have faith and hope, he will exalt you in your humility and do wonderful things through you.” Share a time when you put your hope and trust in God and his love for you, and then God was able to do “great” and “wonderful” things through you. What did you learn from that experience?
- If you are in a men’s group, take some time at the end of your meeting to pray for one another that each of you would be “ instruments of God’s healing and love to a broken world.” Use the prayer at the end of the article as a starting point.