Wednesday, March 01, 2006


[Editors Note: Wrtitten by St. Josemaria and previously published at]

Lent should suggest to us these basic questions: Am I advancing in my faithfulness to Christ, in my desire for holiness, in a generous apostolate in my daily life, in my ordinary work among my colleagues?
Christ is Passing by, 58

We are at the beginning of Lent: a time of penance, purification and conversion. It is not an easy program, but then Christianity is not an easy way of life. It is not enough just to be in the Church, letting the years roll by. In our life, in the life of Christians, our first conversion — that unique moment which each of us remembers, when we clearly understood everything the Lord was asking of us — is certainly very significant. But the later conversions are even more important, and they are increasingly demanding. To facilitate the work of grace in these conversions, we need to keep our soul young; we have to call upon our Lord, know how to listen to him and, having found out what has gone wrong, know how to ask his pardon…

What better way to begin Lent? Let’s renew our faith, hope and love. The spirit of penance and the desire for purification come from these virtues. Lent is not only an opportunity for increasing our external practices of self denial. If we thought it were only that, we would miss the deep meaning it has in Christian living, for these external practices are — as I have said — the result of faith, hope and charity. Christ is Passing By, 57

Let’s remind ourselves, this Lent, that the Christian cannot be superficial. While being fully involved in his everyday work, among other men, his equals; busy, under stress, the Christian has to be at the same time totally involved with God, for he is a child of God.

Divine filiation is a joyful truth, a consoling mystery. It fills all our spiritual life, it shows us how to speak to God, to know and to love our Father in heaven. And it makes our interior struggle overflow with hope and gives us the trusting simplicity of little children. More than that: precisely because we are children of God, we can contemplate in love and wonder everything as coming from the hands of our Father, God the Creator. And so we become contemplatives in the middle of the world, loving the world.

In Lent, the liturgy recalls the effect of Adam’s sin in the life of man. Adam did not want to be a good son of God; he rebelled. But we also hear the echoing chant of that felix culpa: “O happy fault,” which the whole Church will joyfully intone at the Easter vigil.

God the Father, in the fullness of time, sent to the world his only-begotten Son, to re-establish peace; so that by his redeeming men from sin, “we might become sons of God,” freed from the yoke of sin, capable of sharing in the divine intimacy of the Trinity. And so it has become possible for this new man, this new grafting of the children of God, to free all creation from disorder, restoring all things in Christ, who has reconciled them to God.

It is, then, a time of penance, but, as we have seen, this is not something negative. Lent should be lived in the spirit of filiation, which Christ has communicated to us and which is alive in our soul. Our Lord calls us to come nearer to him, to be like him: “Be imitators of God, as his dearly beloved children,” (Eph. 5:1) cooperating humbly but fervently in the divine purpose of mending what is broken, of saving what is lost, of bringing back to order what sinful man has put out of order, of leading to its goal what has gone astray, of re-establishing the divine balance of all creation.
Christ is Passing By, 65

Monday, January 23, 2006

Being Men of Valor In Our Everyday Lives

The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor. (Judges 6:12)
God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27)
Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come share your master’s joy. (Matthew 25:21)
During and following the tragedy of September 11, 2001, we witnessed many brave firemen, policemen, and rescue workers risking, and sometimes losing, their lives to save others. They showed all Americans and the entire world what it means to be men of valor.
Most of us will never have to act in such extreme situations. However, whatever the circumstances in which we find ourselves, God calls us to be men of valor. In the Old Testament Book of Judges, God said to Gideon: “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor" (Judges 6:12). Now some of you may be thinking right now, “Wait a minute. Of course Gideon was a man of valor. Didn’t he take a band of 300 men and defeat an army of thousands. His deeds make Mel Gibson's heroics in Braveheart and The Patriot look like a Sunday school picnic!”
This is all true, but when God spoke these words, Gideon was a lowly farmer, hiding in the back country of Israel (Judges 6:11). In fact, he had probably never ventured beyond his own farm. And when God called on him, he was beating out wheat in a wine press so the Midianites wouldn't find it. Yet, God looked into Gideon’s heart and called him a man of valor. What attributes did God see in Gideon?
Looking to God for Strength
Perhaps Gideon's greatest attribute was that he acknowledged his weaknesses, his limitations, and his insignificance before God. In addition, he knew that his own human strength was insufficient to accomplish God's purpose for his life.
Listen to what Gideon said to God in response to his call: “But Lord, how can I deliver Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (Judges 6:15).
This is how the Lord responded to these humble words of Gideon: “But I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them” (6:16).
Throughout all of Gideon's mighty victories and conquests, he never forgot who he was before God. He never forgot his dependence on the Lord, and, most importantly, he never forgot that God was with him at all times. By the grace of God, Gideon was given strength, courage, cunning, even audacity, to rescue his nation Israel from a desperate state of bondage and defeat all its enemies. And he accomplished this with only a few hundred men.
This realistic view of who we are before God and our dependency on him is just as critical for us today as it was for Gideon. I am the first to admit that this is hard for men to do. After all, we men are supposed to be tough, strong, and self-reliant. But who among us could stand on his own merits in the light of God’s glory and majesty?
Top Ten List
So what does it take to be or become men of valor in our everyday lives? Here is my “Top Ten List”:
No. 10: A man of valor is man enough to admit his faults and take ownership of his sins.
No. 9: A man of valor is faithful to his commitments and keeps his word and promises.
No. 8: A man of valor perseveres in difficult tasks or under adversity, even when he may not receive recognition or appreciation.
No. 7: A man of valor is loyal to his friends even when this loyalty may cost him dearly.
No. 6: A man of valor recognizes that he is not always self-sufficient and that he needs the support of other friends.
No. 5: A man of valor is bold when required, but also uses restraint and discretion when they are needed.
No. 4: A man of valor overcomes his fear of evangelizing and is willing to share the Gospel with others if an opportunity arises.
No. 3: A man of valor enthusiastically serves his family, even if he is worn out from a hard day at work.
No. 2: A man of valor is willing to put his flesh to death and exercise self-control over his thoughts, words, eyes, and actions.
No. 1: A man of valor is a man of prayer. He knows that God is with him, and he recognizes his dependence on God and his own limitations apart from God. “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Mighty Men of Valor
Wouldn’t it be great if we heard God speaking the same words to us that he spoke to Gideon! As we turn to the Lord in our weakness, then deep within our spirit he will assure us that his strength is sufficient for us and that he will be with us. As we ask the Holy Spirit to shine his light into our hearts, our sins and weaknesses will be rooted out. The Holy Spirit makes us aware of our sinfulness and frailty, and we find that we are not condemned. Instead, we are moved to lay down our self-sufficiency at the cross and live each day guided by the Spirit, and in the power of the Spirit.
Mighty in the Lord
God truly does choose the foolish and weak of the world to shame the wise and self-sufficient (1 Corinthians 1:27). All of us are destined to become mighty in the Lord, and the key lies in our daily decisions to love God and trust in his power and promises rather than relying only on our own abilities. It is only through faith in the power of the cross that our hearts can be cleansed, our minds renewed, and our character transformed.
Being a man of valor is more than just a matter of following steps one to ten or following Plan A over Plan B. It is who we are in Christ. Jesus is the ultimate man of valor, and we have his life dwelling in us through our baptism and faith in him. We know that life grows and is strengthened every time we receive the Lord in the Eucharist, and every time we say yes to Him.
As Christian men, we want to live our lives as men of valor, not for earthly rewards, but to hear these words of Jesus when we appear before him: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come share your master’s joy (Matthew 25:21).
(This article by Maurice Blumberg was part of the Catholic Men’s E-zine, “Being a Man of Valor in Our Everyday Lives" (January—February 2002 issue), which is available on the NFCM website You may e-mail them at Many thanks to the The Word Among Us for allowing us to include some material from daily meditations.)