For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The previous two Catholic Man Channel articles provided insights into what it means to be a real man. In this and the next two articles, we will look at another question: What does it mean to be holy? In particular, how can we become holy Catholic men?
Of course, we can look at the lives of Joseph and Mary in Scriptures and say, “That’s what it means to be holy, but I can never be like them.” Perhaps not, yet when Mary and Joseph came to the Temple to offer sacrifice after Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:22-40), they were following the Law of Moses. In addition to consecrating, or offering back to God, the child he had given them, the law also called for a sacrifice that would accomplish the purification of the mother, who was ritually barred from corporate worship because of the blood involved in childbirth (Leviticus 12:1-8). But we know that as the Mother of God, Mary was already pure, so why did they observe this ritual?
Perhaps Joseph and Mary did so out of a humble recognition that Mary’s purity and holiness was not just the result of her effort but of God’s grace and favor. This is a vital point for all of us. It is very tempting as Catholic men to try to achieve holiness only on our own, whether by scrupulously examining our lives for every trace of sin, piling on one pious practice after another, or anxiously trying to discern God’s will in every tiny situation. Of course, examining our lives, performing pious acts, and discerning God’s will are all good practices. But if in performing them, we can place so much emphasis and anxiety on our own efforts that we may actually end up only frustrating God’s call to be holy.
Holiness is God’s work, not ours. It is the gift of his life operating within us, and though we are called to cooperate with his grace and make the right decisions, we don’t become holy by focusing on ourselves. Rather, we become holy as we let the Holy Spirit work through us, empowering us to give glory to God and to love God and those around us. Holiness comes as we offer back to God whatever he’s given us, just as Joseph and Mary offered Jesus to the Father.
Is there anything we can offer back to God to grow in holiness? First of all, we shouldn’t be afraid of surrendering our lives to the Lordship of Christ, because he promises to give us eternal life in return. When we offer our wife and children and other family members to God, we release divine blessings in their lives and ours. When we love our wives sacrificially, we create a domestic church that makes our whole family grow in holiness. When we realize we can’t live our lives as lone ranger Catholic men, we form authentic Christian relationships with other men, and their support and prayers help us grow in holiness. When we generously give money to God, we become less attached to it and find that we always have what we need. And, finally, when we set aside time for prayer, we sanctify our whole day and we will discover that we are growing in holiness.
What is God calling you to offer him today? How can you open yourself more to the graces he so desires to pour out in your life? Let’s put our faith first and foremost in God’s love for us. Let’s believe that through the power of the Cross and the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us, we can and will grow in holiness as Catholic men.
“Lord, all that I have is your gift to me, so I make it my gift to you. I want to be holy as you are holy. Help me to set aside my own goals and allow your holy life to operate in me and nurture it in others. Lord, your grace is sufficient.”
(Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.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. Maurice can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing me to use this daily meditation from the July issue of their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Joseph and Mary are models of holiness, par excellence. What are some characteristics of their lives that made them holy? How do these apply to us as Catholic men?
2. Why does being holy have more to do with God’s work in us than just in our own efforts?
3. The article offers the following steps in answer to the question: “Is there anything we can offer back to God to grow in holiness?” How would you rate yourself on these steps? What can you do to improve?
o Surrender your life to the Lordship of Christ.
o Offer your wife and children and other family members to God.
o Love your wives sacrificially.
o Form authentic Christian relationships with other men, and support and pray for one another.
4. How would you answer these two questions posed in the article: “What is God calling you to offer him today?” and “How can you open yourself more to the graces he so desires to pour out in your life?”
5. If you are in a men’s group, pray for one another that you would open yourself more to God’s life in you and would respond to his call to be holy. Use the prayer at the end of the article as the starting point.