I’ve never met a man who, when a training sequence or fight scene in any Rocky movie came on, flipped the channel or left the room. We know the outcome, yet we watch it anyway; we are men.
There’s something heroic in those scenes, something inherently masculine that transcends the musical score or the seemingly impossible feats of athleticism and strength (remember Rocky dragging that sled in the Siberian snow?).
The truth is that while my wife sits beside me and cheers for Rocky along with me, as a man I take something different from his story. It’s in Rocky’s internal strength, his refusal to stay down, his unyielding will and resilience to keep moving forward – against all odds and against far superior opponents – that I relate most to him not only as a man, but as a Christian, as a husband and father.
To begin at the beginning
It’s important to reflect upon why God created us with a specific and unique gender. It was not a matter of “chance” as some geneticists would like to believe. God did not “let fate decide” in some physiological, cosmic pinball machine of X- and Y-chromosomes. No, as Scripture affirms, God has a plan for each of us – a vocation – and our gender plays into that vocation.
As a man, it is imperative that I remember three things:
- God created us in His image (Gen 1:26). We are created by Love to love.
- God created us male and female (Gen 1:27) – and that difference is very good.
- As a man, my role in God’s plan and God’s expectation of how I live out my call to love is uniquely different than that of a woman – equally challenging, but wholeheartedly different.
From the beginning of creation, God set man apart with a very specific purpose. In Genesis God gives us deep insight into His expectations of a man, with this commission:
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it” (Gen 2:15).
This English translation tells us very simply that Adam is to till and keep the garden. The original Hebrew translation gives us a far deeper understanding, however, of Adam’s role and, in essence, our role as men. The writer(s) of Genesis associate the function “to till and keep” with divine service, as well as with guardianship. In essence, Adam’s role was to protect and guard everything and everyone in the garden; this is the manner in which he served God most directly as a man.
Fulfilling your role as a Christian man
The truth of man’s vocation to love, through sacrifice and service, is seen throughout Sacred Scripture. We’re told how men, specifically, are to live, to serve, to multiply, to bless, to teach, to fight, to preach, to offer sacrifice, to protect, to work and to die for others.
Men are to be prayerful (Mt. 26:41), respectful (1 Pet. 3:7), trustworthy (Ex. 18:21), humble (Prov. 29:23), self-controlled (2 Tim. 1:7), noble (Phil. 4:8), honest (Acts 24:16), courageous (Js. 1:12-13), compassionate (Ps. 103:13), providential (1 Tim. 5:8), temperate and worthy of respect (Titus 2:2).
And all this happens by virtue of that chromosomal shift, right? Oh, if only it were that easy. No, becoming a true man in God’s image begins with surrendering to God’s grace, followed by embracing a heavy, splintered cross each day en route to greater virtue. Perhaps now would be a good time to consult the “Italian Stallion” himself, who reminded us that, “…life ain’t about how hard you can hit…it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward” (Rocky Balboa, 2006).
So, what are you – as a Christian man – doing to bolster your own prayer life? What is on your calendar this year to insure that you are putting yourself in the path of God’s grace and shouldering the virtue-driven crosses that are laid before you each day at home and at work? What is your “plan” to allow the Holy Spirit to wreck your best-laid, though imperfect, plans and redirect you, if necessary?
“Come away…and rest.” (Mk 6:31)
This March we are hosting the second annual Life Teen Men’s Retreat at Life Teen Camp Covecrest in North Georgia. It’s for any man – 18 and older – who wants to grow deeper in his Catholic manhood. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or single, old or young, a prayer warrior or a guy who doesn’t pray nearly enough…this retreat is for sinners who want to get more proactive about their sainthood.
This year’s retreat is being held March 23-25th and a handful of spots are still open. Join me and some of my brothers from the Life Teen Staff as we take an honest look at what it takes to live as a man of God these days, what we need to do and – most importantly – how to get there. This is the ultimate guys’ weekend…one that offers Confession during but won’t leave you needing to go after. I honestly cannot wait. You won’t believe some of the activities we’ve come up with. I’m excited about it already.
Brothers in Christ, I hope you’ll join us. (And to any of my sisters in Christ reading this…I hope you’ll encourage the men in your life to attend.)
It’s time to kick it up a notch, gentlemen. God is calling us into the desert this Lent, to be challenged, refined and strengthened – to become more than we currently are. Our families, our Church and this culture needs strong men willing to stand for truth, speak with boldness and serve in humility. In the words of Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”
May God bless you always and all ways.
And may blessed Rocky of Balboa, patron saint of the slow-motion knockout, pray for us!