Homily for Sunday, 19 January 2020

He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is com­ing after me who ranks ahead of me because he exist­ed before me.’

We all know that Jesus Christ is ful­ly God and ful­ly man. We know that; the Church teach­es it and we believe it to be true. It is fact, beyond ques­tion and with­out doubt. Christ is the Son of God, the Sec­ond Per­son of the Holy Trin­i­ty. It is through Him that we are saved, and our sins are for­giv­en. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; with­out Him, no one is saved.

Today, though, I want to focus pri­mar­i­ly on Jesus Christ, the man… the son of Mary and known to many of His con­tem­po­raries as a carpenter’s son. I want to focus less on the Christ who raised the dead, made the blind see, and made lame men walk and more on the man Jesus, who trav­eled through­out the Holy Land with His dis­ci­ples, liv­ing the Word He preached.

Now, some­one might object that Christ can­not be divid­ed into His com­po­nent parts, and cer­tain­ly that would be true. Such is not my goal. My goal is to ask and hope­ful­ly answer a very sim­ple ques­tion: What does it mean to be a man?

How can a male per­son become a man… become the ide­al man… become the man he is meant to be? Who is more man­ly, Chester­ton or Chuck Nor­ris? Who is clos­er to the ide­al of man­hood, Ram­bo or the Holy Father?

Since this is a homi­ly and not a film review, you’ve prob­a­bly guessed the answer already. But, why is that the case? It’s very sim­ply: cat­e­chism 101. We are cre­at­ed to know God, to love God, and to serve God in this life and to be with Him for­ev­er in heav­en. And how do the males of our species attain this? By becom­ing the ide­al man – a catholic man. And what does the word “catholic” mean? It means uni­ver­sal.

We become ide­al men by becom­ing uni­ver­sal men. And who is the exem­plar of uni­ver­sal man­hood? We know, of course, the answer… it’s Jesus Christ.

A boy becomes the man he will be by imi­ta­tion. He sees the behav­ior of men he respects, and he mod­els that behav­ior. It could be his father or grand­fa­ther, uncles, teach­ers, scout lead­ers… men sit­ting in the pews at church. This isn’t a process that has to end with child­hood. We learn behav­ior from the com­mu­ni­ties of which we are a part. If you spend your time in a seedy bar, you will learn seedy behav­ior. If you spend your time with crim­i­nals, you will learn to com­mit crimes. If you spend your time with sin­ners, your heart will turn to sin.

But if you spend your time with saints, you will learn to be a saint. So, we men should all spend all our time at church, because that’s where you find the saints, right? Hmm… Per­haps…. But per­haps not. If only it were that sim­ple.

Man­hood comes with a warn­ing, and the warn­ing is twofold. First, men: guard your behav­ior, because oth­ers are watch­ing you. They are not watch­ing to judge you. They are watch­ing to learn from you. Be absolute­ly cer­tain that the exam­ple you give them by they way you live your life is a wor­thy mod­el to give. Your sal­va­tion depends on it, and so does the sal­va­tion of your sons, your nephews, even men who are new to a com­mu­ni­ty of which you are a part. Nev­er get­ting a sec­ond chance to make a first impres­sion pales in com­par­i­son to repeat­ed­ly mak­ing the wrong impres­sion. We lead and we teach less by our words and more by our exam­ple and we owe it to those who watch us to be worth watch­ing.

Sec­ond, men: guard your hearts and guard your minds. Be care­ful what you set them on, and make sure what you do set them on is wor­thy of the King­dom of Heav­en. Life isn’t a rehearsal; it isn’t a prac­tice run. You get one shot to become the man you are meant to be. Make cer­tain that man is one who Our Lord will wel­come into His King­dom at the end of your life, because if you don’t you have utter­ly failed as a man.

Gen­tle­men, I’ll dou­ble down on that one: work out your own sal­va­tion with fear and trem­bling or face the fact that you have utter­ly failed to become a man. Male souls in hell are a mere mock­ery of man­hood; you are des­tined for so much more.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the ide­al man – the per­fect man – the uni­ver­sal man, and he was meek and hum­ble of heart. But at the same time, he stood up for what is right, refus­ing to let the mon­ey­chang­ers in the Tem­ple go unchal­lenged. He is a man of per­fect patience; He wants what is best for oth­ers, and He helps them real­ize that. And, of course, He is a man of great courage and prin­ci­ple. He lived and He died for what He knew to be true so that you and I could come to believe.

Gen­tle­men, that is the man that you and I are called to be. For our eter­nal good and for the good of those we love, we can afford to be noth­ing less. So, walk with Our Lord and walk with those who love Him; become like Him, and teach oth­ers to do the same.

There are some who say our world has gone ter­ri­ble astray. I don’t know if that’s true, but I know if it is then it is your fault and it is my fault, because that is what we were will­ing to set­tle for. I also know that if it’s going to get bet­ter, it’s you and it’s me who are going to make it bet­ter, because we will accept noth­ing less. We lift our­selves up and we lift up our sons, our broth­ers, and – some­times – even our fathers, because that is what a man does… a real man… a uni­ver­sal man. And, gen­tle­men, that is pre­cise­ly what we are des­tined to be.

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