THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for February 6th, 2014
Memorial of Saint Paul Miki and Companions, Martyrs
Liturgical texts here
O, to be at the bedside of King David, to hear what he would say in his dying moments. This was a man who lived and breathed a desire to walk with His God. And yet, he stumbled and fell so often. But he would pick himself up again, and almost fearlessly expose his sin to the Lord appealing to His mercy. What wisdom he would have learned along the way. Fortunately, because of the Scriptures, we can be there at David’s bedside as he turns to his son Solomon and says:
Be strong and be a man! (1 Kg 2:2; NABre)
Between today’s three Mass readings, we men in particular can find five ways to live the challenge of David.
I. LIVE LIKE TODAY IS YOUR LAST
David’s first words to Solomon were packed with wisdom:
I am going the way of all the earth.
Everyone dies. David always understood that, which is why he never hesitated—despite his terrible sins at times—to make himself right with God.
My nine year old son asked me last night, “Dad, who was that saint who kept a skull on his desk, and why did he do that?” I replied, “It was St. Thomas More. He kept the skull there to remind him of his mortality. In this way, it helped him to live like each day were his last, and to live it well.”
My son paused, and then said with a grin, “Dad, can I have your skull when you die?”
II. REALLY LIVE
William Wallace in the movie Braveheart said, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.” Sadly, few men in our culture know what it means to “really live.” But David did. He knew by experience after having toppled giants, fought wars, pillaged gold, and committed adultery—ESPN highlight kind of stuff—that none of that defined his manhood. Rather, he said to his son:
Keep the mandate of the LORD, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees…
David understood that true happiness was found in keeping God’s commandments. Well, most men know by experience that sin brings guilt, restlessness and fleeting pleasure. I too have never been so happy than when I am living the way that Jesus and the Scriptures have instructed me to, for the Word of God is not a stale ethic, but the living power of God.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love… I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. (John 15:10-11)
Anyone can live like a heathen, but to be virtuous, pure, and obedient takes a real man.
Real men are joyful because they keep the commandments.
III. SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM
David was always a man after God’s heart, and when he went after the things of the world, that’s when David lost his joy. The world tells a man that his first duty is to bring home the bacon, provide for his family, and build up a good retirement plan. But that’s not what Jesus said:
Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. (Matt 6:33)
Our first duty as men is to seek God, as David told Solomon, “with their whole heart and with their whole soul.” I’ve seen men do this for their sports teams, cars, and cottages—but God? Men will never be real men until they start to cultivate a heart for God. Because to have a heart for God means to acquire the heart of God. And there is no more manly heart than the heart of Jesus.
David’s whole life was a song of praise to God. Worshiping God with abandon, like in today’s Psalm, takes courage.
Yours, O LORD, is the sovereignty; you are exalted as head over all… In your hand are power and might; it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all.
Real men praise God with their lives.
But, Father, I am not capable… But you’re capable of shouting when your team makes a goal and not capable of singing praise to the Lord, to go out a bit from your behavior to sing this? To praise God is totally free! —POPE FRANCIS, Homily, Jan. 18th, 2014; Zenit.org
IV. DEPEND ON GOD
To seek the kingdom first means to depend upon the Father. That almost seems to be the opposite of today’s concept of manhood; the man is supposed to be in control (of everything, except his appetites, of course).
But in today’s Gospel, Jesus sends the Apostles into the world with nothing but faith and a staff.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick — no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.
It’s not that the Apostles did not need these things. It’s that Jesus wanted them to trust that their Father would provide them. So too, the world is in desperate need of men whose priority is the salvation of others and concern for the well being of the poor—not a padded wallet.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear… unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 6:25, 18:3)
Real men depend upon the Father like a child upon his daddy.
When the Apostles did as Jesus instructed them, it happened: their prayers of faith began to move mountains.
The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
I can tell you now that many of the emotional and even physical illnesses in our families would not be there if men became the priest of their home that they ought to be. That means not only leading their families in prayer, but becoming men of prayer themselves. There’s always time to check the internet, watch a ball game, or play a game of golf… but never enough time to pray. Well, I can never repeat enough the concise teaching of the Catechism:
Prayer is the life of the new heart. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.2697
So many men, and their families with them, are spiritually dying because they’re not praying. David’s life was a prayer; Jesus prayed always. One of the Twelve performing those miracles was Judas… somewhere along the way, he stopped praying. Prayer is what transforms men, what helps them to be strong and be a man.
…because without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)
Real men pray every day.
As I prepared for this meditation today, I sensed the Lord say in my heart…
I need men who will leave everything to follow Me. How richly I will provide for them, how sovereignly I will move among them, how powerfully I will demonstrate My power in them. But where are they? Where are the men who will leave their nets, renounce themselves, and follow Me? The harvest is plenty, but laborers are few. Pray that the Master of the Harvest will send real men into the fields…
May St. Paul Miki and his martyr companions pray for us men!
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