10 Ways of Living as a Son of God

Mass on Ramapo Mountain

  1. God literally died for you. You are a son of God and you get your worth from His love for you. God willed your existence out of love. You are not just a product of chance. God willed YOUR existence, He created you exactly as you are, and He loves you as you are. He sees you as His son, and wants to see you prosper and live with the fullness of life that He wants for you. Jesus said, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” in John 10:10. That’s pretty cool, huh?! And I haven’t even hit on the part about Jesus dying for us. He thought that we were worth dying for even though we had already messed up. So remember that even when things aren’t going well, Jesus believes in you and wants to give you another chance.
  1. Men are called to serve and protect. In the story of Adam and Eve, after Adam is created, “God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Genesis 2:15). God gave Adam and all men this duty, to “cultivate and care” for all of the Earth. This includes all of the plants and animals, but most importantly all of humanity. The Hebrew translation of “cultivate and care” is the word “Shamar,” which means to protect and keep.  So God wasn’t just giving us a job of being gardeners, but being protectors of all of God’s creation.  Our job is to honor God in all that we do and to selflessly serve and protect all others in our care, our wives, our families, our communities, those in need, and to even care for nature too, as  Pope Francis has put out so beautifully in his latest encyclical, Laudato Si.  A man is called to sacrifice of himself for others. Our ultimate model of manhood is Jesus Himself, and He gave us a very clear message that we need to put ourselves last in serving others. Sometimes this is in very heroic ways, like soldiers, police officers, and firemen. But we can also give of ourselves for others in everyday matters, like going out of our way to help a friend or someone in need, letting people go before us in lines, and making time to spend with your family instead doing what you want.
  1. Your masculinity doesn’t depend on what you look like. In our culture, there are these lies that in order to be a true man, we need to be super big and ripped. We see this all over: on sports, in commercials, in the locker room. This is a lie. Some men are naturally skinny or overweight, this has no bearing on their manhood. Sure, it is healthy to be in shape and to be able to do some heavy physical labor, but don’t be tempted to think any less of yourself if you don’t have big muscles. God judges us for what we do, not what we look like. In addition, remember that you can act like a man even when you are relatively young. Don’t let your elders convince you that just because you’re young, you’re destined to make mistakes and fail until you’re older. There are plenty of 10 year old boys who live much more manly lives than 40 year olds, by pursuing virtue and excellence in everything that they do.
  1. Pursuing virtue. Once I was privileged enough to attend a talk specifically on manliness at a Catholic conference (another shout-out to FOCUS!), and I was surprised to learn within the first few minutes that the essence of manliness is simply cultivating and living the virtues. Ultimately, this post could simply be about the 7 virtues, but I guess I wanted to flesh them out a little bit more for the sake of making them a bit more practical. The Catholic Gentleman has a wonderful post that highlights the importance of virtue that I would highly recommend, but the 7 virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, fortitude, faith, hope, and charity. The first 4 are called cardinal virtues that we can train ourselves in, and the final 3 are called theological virtues which are gifts from God. In your own life, your best bet is to pick out one of the cardinal virtues at a time, research them so that you can understand them, and then continuously work at attaining them. As for the theological virtues, your best bet is to take those into prayer each day, asking God for those gifts. He will provide.
  1. Treating women right. One of the easiest ways to distinguish a man from a boy is how he treats women. A man always treats women with respect, seeing them as a human being with their own life, needs, relationships, and feelings. Boys are sometimes tempted to use women, for their bodies, for a sense of emotional comfort, for power, etc. One of those general rules of thumb to apply here is to see every woman as your mother, sister, daughter, etc. This includes women that you see on screens and images. Would you treat one of them the way that you are treating this stranger? And beware, pornography may seem harmless at first, but it has a crippling effect on you and your relationships with the more beautiful sex. A huge way that we can honor women is by having chaste relationships with them. Save sex for marriage, and make sure to draw the line clearly with how physical you BOTH feel comfortable being with each other if you’re in a committed relationship. Save the “test drive” for cars, because women are so much better than that. It’s an insult to even compare them to cars. If you aren’t willing to lay down your life for them for the rest of your life, you have no right to a “test drive,” this is a go big or go home issue. On a lighter note, some things that I love to see men do for women is to open doors for them, let them eat first, paying for a date, listening attentively, and not talking down to them- especially with regards to subjects like sports and cars where the stereotype is that women don’t know anything about that. Oh yea, and if you’re Catholic, letting your wife / girlfriend / children go before you to receive Holy Communion. What a better way of sacrifice then letting them receive Jesus first?!
  1. True to our promises. A man is as good as his word, goes the common saying. “Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation,” warns St. James in James 5:12. How often have you been affected by this in others? One of the most common issues where we see this in the 21st century is Facebook events. I’m guilty of putting “maybe” down for about 5 events in a row, only to never change to yes or no and never showing up. Doing that hurts my friends who went out of their way to invite me and don’t have any idea if I’m coming or not! And this can be applied to greater things, too.. How many times have we encountered people who are always promising to do things and never follow through? We stop taking that person seriously, don’t we? Perhaps the most important promises that affect each one of us are wedding vows. Each one of us has a mom and a dad. And most of our parents, at least at one point in time, were married. They promised to be love and serve each other, through good times and bad. They promised to be faithful to each other for their entire lives. They promised to marry each other for life. Yet, unfortunately, about half of marriages end in divorce. Dang. Talk about a broken promise. Think… they promised that they would love and serve each other in both good times and in bad. So as much as I feel for couples going through difficult marriages, divorce never really was an option according to their vows. Unfortunately these affects have wounded countless numbers of young people in my generation, who are now the likely generation in recent memory to ever get married. There is hurt everywhere because of broken promises. Long story short, a man keeps his word, even if it is very difficult. Even if just each of us as individuals try to get a little better on this, I think it would go a long way in changing the world.
  1. Taking the initiative to pursue a woman. For young men, assuming that you aren’t called to the priesthood or religious life, one of the most exhilarating times of our lives is attempting to win a woman’s heart. Notice how I used the words “pursue” and “win”, verbs that imply that you actually try. You don’t usually find the woman of your dreams by just sitting around waiting for her to walk through your door, but by going out and living life, and meeting her doing the same sort of things that you like to do. Don’t be afraid to take a chance and ask out a woman that you’re interested in! Rejection stings, but you’ll never have a shot if you don’t ask! Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of young women out there looking for relationships and potential husbands, but not many men going out and asking them. Instead, our culture has made hooking up seem like a normal thing to do. This is no way to treat a woman, to use her for her body with no thoughts for who she actually is as a person… to just try and get messed up enough that you don’t even know what you’re doing. That’s not being a man, that’s being an animal. A man goes out of his way to protect women and treat them with respect. The end goal of a relationship isn’t sex or physical pleasure. The end goal of a relationship is life-long friendship, love, and helping each other become closer to Christ. Kids are nice too, when we’re talking about marriage 😉
  1. Be sharpened by other men. Man was not created to be alone. We were actually created for community. I’ve already mentioned some cool things about relationships with women, but in general fraternal friendships are just as important! Jesus recognized this when He gave us the Church. It wasn’t just Peter alone who continued Jesus’ mission on bringing God’s Kingdom to earth in the Church, but the 12 Apostles, and the 72 Disciples, and countless others! Jesus founded the Church as a community, and it grew as a community. We are all the Body of Christ, and we are stronger together as a “body” as opposed to “a lone ear” or “a finger and two toes.” A pretty cool bible verse that highlights this is Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so man sharpens his fellow man.” Of course this applies to women too, but I love the imagery of iron here and I think it speaks very clearly to men. When I am alone, I am more vulnerable to temptations and not always the person that I ought to be. When I am surrounded by my good friends, they encourage me to be the best that I can be in all things. One simple way that I’ve noticed this is in prayer accountability. As a missionary, I challenged men to commit to praying daily, as I do, so that they could grow closer to Jesus. Beforehand, most of them had never had a very regular prayer life, but after I challenged them to start one and continued to check up on them, they started making impressive improvements and I could see their lives change as they grew closer to Christ through prayer. Accountability and encouragement is one of the best ways that we can help build each other up as men.
  1. Only satisfied by God. This world is great. God has given us so many people to become friends with and countless other joys. But as tempting as it can be to strictly chase the things of this world, we have to remember that in the end only God will satisfy us. We were made for God, and nothing less will give us peace. We will always be wanting more… until we are finally with God, and we will have never-ending peace and joy, ecstasy really! So with that in mind, make daily prayer a part of your schedule, and make sure to be faithful to Sunday Mass and regular confession. Our relationship with God starts right here on earth.
  1. God’s son. Did you know that God desires a personal relationship with you? Kind of like any other friend, except He’s Jesus and He created, unconditionally loves, and died for you! Now, if you’re anything like me, you get a bit turned off by that mushy “God loves us” stuff. The girls eat that up, but for us as guys, it doesn’t really work. I think we need to take a different approach. God gave us two basic ways of seeing Him: as our Father in God the Father, and as our brother in Jesus. Some of us aren’t blessed in having a father or brother in our lives that gives us a glimpse of the true love and care of God/Jesus. As a Father, God cares for us at all times. He watches out for us, is ready to give us advice, and gives us everything that we need to live joyfully as His sons. As a brother, Jesus modeled for us a firm commitment to putting God first in all that we do, a strong work ethic in our day to day labors, compassion and care for those around us who need mercy and help, and is a friend whose shoulder we can lean on whenever we need some support. God is much closer to us than we think and remembering that He is by our side at all times will help us through the good and the bad times ahead.

I hope and pray that these tips inspire and encourage you! God bless!

Note: A couple of months ago I published a post about being a Daughter of God, which inspired me to write this one as well for the guys!

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No Time Like the Present

Two of my friends have passed on to heaven in the past month.

College kids. Wow. And totally out of the blue. Praise God for faith. I can’t help but think of the divine mercy image and repeat to myself “Jesus, I trust in you.”

Jesus, I trust in Thee

It reminded me that the Christian faith isn’t just for the nice times. No, it’s actually more appropriate for when things ARE NOT okay. Because at times like this when I could easily despair that I lost them forever (with the agnostic outlook), I know through my faith that they are with God in heaven and that this isn’t the end but just the beginning of the glories of life!

Sometimes I forget that people die. But with all of the horrible events in the world news like the bombings in Boston, it’s helped me think more about the necessity to live every moment the way that I’d like to die.

I don’t think that I love enough. I don’t think that I go out of my way for others enough.

Life isn’t about picking the safest path, but about living in boldly to glorify God.

Pope Francis gave a fantastic reflection on this theme today:

“(The parable of the talents) makes us reflect on the relationship between how we use the gifts we have received from God and his return when he will ask us how we have used them. … This tells us that our awaiting the Lord’s return is a time of action … time to make the most of God’s gifts, nor for ourselves, but for him, for the Church, for others. [It is] the time in which to always seek to make good grow in the world. Particularly in this time of crisis, today, it is important not to be locked up in ourselves, removing our talents, our spiritual and material riches, everything that the Lord has given us, but to open ourselves, to be compassionate, to be attentive to others.”

I know that I could do a better job of honoring God with the gifts that He has given me. Often I am too selfish and think about what I want instead of what others need.

“In the square today there are many young persons. To you, who are at the beginning of life’s path, I ask: have you thought of the talents that God has given you? Have you thought of how to put them at the service of others? Don’t take your talents away! Bet on great ideals, those ideals that enlarge our hearts, those ideals of service that make your talents fruitful. We were not given life so that we might hold it back, jealously, for ourselves, but it was given to us so that we might offer it. Dear young persons, you have great souls! Don’t be afraid to dream of great things!”

Don’t be afraid to dream of great things! This was something that I have had some trouble with. For the longest time, I thought that my life had to follow a certain calculated “safe” path. But slowly God has revealed to me how I should not take my life for granted as much. I chose to become a Catholic Missionary, and I’m incredibly excited for that next adventure starting next year! In addition, I have seen many friends discern vocations to the priesthood and religious life. It’s been so inspiring to see their courage and love of God that inspires them to make such radical choices! But dreaming of great things isn’t just becoming a priest or missionary.. there are great people like Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati who simply lived with charity towards all in the midst of regular lives!

“We will be judged by God on charity, on how we have love our brothers and sisters, especially the weakest and most needy of them. Of course, we always have to keep in mind that we are judged, we are saved by grace, by an act of God’s gratuitous love that always precedes us. Alone we can do nothing. Faith is foremost a gift that we have received.”

He’s saying this over and over again because I need to hear it over and over again. Often it is the hardest for me to be charitable in the “normal” times of life: making dinner with my housemates, riding the bus, conversations with family. I have to remember to treat those situations as opportunity to serve God as well.

“Looking to the final judgement must never frighten us, rather, it urges us to live the present better. With mercy and patience, God offers us this time so that we might learn every day to recognize him in the poor and the small, might strive for the good, and might be vigilant in prayer and love. The Lord, at the end of our existence and of history, may then recognize us as good and faithful servants.”

Lessons Being Learned

The fall is going by so fast, often it feels like I’m only playing catch up. But over the past few months I’ve learned or relearned a few things that I think might be inspirational, so I’d like to share them with you:

  • You can only find silence by being silent. No music, no internet, no tv. They will all distract your prayer time.
  • Making time for prayer is not negotiable. I’ve had lots and lots of late nights, but even then it is not a good excuse. Without taking time for prayer, I feel so much more alone and distant from Jesus. Without this time, it’s hard to continue striving for virtue and generally live like a Christian.
  • Regularly reading scripture is not negotiable, especially the Gospels and New Testament Letters. They help me stay aware of Jesus’ words for us all, and they especially can help you pray better as you can do Lectio Divina with the scriptures.
  • Set the bar high for yourself. God didn’t make us so that we could fit in but rather that we could achieve excellence in all that we do, and glorify Him in the process. The devil would love for us all to do “just enough” prayer, effort, service. It’s usually not enough! Jesus told us to put ourselves last after everyone else in service.
  • Prayer isn’t about making us feel good. Mass isn’t about making us feel good. Instead, they are opportunities to grow closer with the Lord and conform our will with His. I especially have struggled with prayer, and it forced me to concentrate even harder. Just as you would want someone that you love to show you that they care about you, sometimes God will test us to see just how much we care about Him.
  • I only tell you that I want you to pray and read scripture and go to mass and all of that awesome stuff because I know that it helps. It can seem like a burden, yes. But just because getting your wisdom teeth pulled hurts doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do it. It’s for our good in the end.
  • The election is coming up and it can be a very heavy topic. It is very important that we vote, and vote well, but there are things that we can do that are more important than arguing over candidates. We must start with the building blocks, like belief in God, belief in Jesus, and following Jesus. I’d love for a certain candidate to win the election. But what I’d love more is for the world to come to know our Lord and savior Jesus Christ. He is the reason why life has meaning! He is the one who can save souls!
  • Jesus called us all to evangelize. But we can only give what we already have. Evangelization is sharing the person and message of Jesus Christ. Do you know Jesus, do you have a personal relationship with Him? As we come to know Jesus more, we will fall ever more in love with Him and will desperately want others to know about Him as well! So before we can effectively evangelize, we must be evangelized ourselves.
  • Not all of the pressure is on us in evangelization and things like that. God is only asking that we are open to His plans, and He will bless all that we do. I have a couple of examples for this one. The first is this Koinonia retreat that I was blessed to be on team for: there were talks and meals and masses, but really, we didn’t do anything to influence the hearts of the participants. They themselves kept their hearts open and that was all that God needed, He showed them His immense love for them and there were changed lives because of it. Another example is how I’ve been praying for opportunities to share my faith. God answered that one not once but in two very significant conversations in the past week. It goes to show that all that we have to do is open the door and from there He will do the rest of the work. We just have to have the faith in Him and trust.
  • I am continuing to seek to love others more and more intentionally, but I’m not even close to where I should be yet. Love causes us to deny ourselves in favor of others. It’s tough. But how can we say that we love God if we don’t even love His people?

What lessons have you been learning?

Faith in the American Revolution and Jesus

Here’s my claim: believing in the American Revolution takes almost as much faith as it does to believe in Jesus. Something I’ve been thinking about for a while, because when you think about it, they’re pretty similar cases.

Similarities:

Neither are here for us to see right now. How can I believe in something that I can’t see? 😉
But you CAN see the results of each very clearly. America is here, so there was a revolution. The Church is here, so there was Jesus.
You can also see physical clues to them as well. There are muskets and clothes and documents (like the Declaration of Independence) left over from the American Revolution. Well, there are fragments of the cross and the Shroud of Turin and writings by people like Flavius Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure.  He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.  And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.”

In addition, you can go to the actual places where both the Revolution took place and Jesus lived.
There’s the testimonies of people like George Washington of the War. Well, there’s also testimonies of Jesus’ closest friends and followers of Him, the Gospels and Epistles.

Difference:
Jesus was Resurrected. That’s a miracle. As difficult as it was for the Americans to fend off the British, it wasn’t a miracle in the same way. One of the  most powerful ways for me in believing it is that Jesus’ closest friends all died for that very reason, their belief in the Resurrection and that He was God. If it was just a good trick, I doubt they would have died really horrible deaths like that, they would have just laughed it off and said “haha, joke’s over guys, we were just kidding.”

What do you think? Anything I missed?