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.