At Eden, Satan seduces Man with the false story (from the Old English “spel”) that humans can have “all knowledge” and “become like gods” (Gen 3:5). The turning away from God and His Truth to the devil’s false story, the Satanspel, is the fall of Man into Original Sin.
The Satanspel of today promises that a “modern” secular society (humans can be gods) and information technology (knowledge) will lead to the salvation of humans. Secularists seek to neutralize God in the public square and promote an individualist order where all humans can fulfill their personal cravings for material goods and sexual perversion. The “knowledge” of Eden is the “information” of today with Man submerged in a swamp of information through ever-more intrusive media devices. In the “information overload”, the trivial, obscene and morbid seduce Man into greater and greater distraction from God, with Man falling into ever-greater darkness of sin.
Gospel of Jesus Christ the Divine Evangelist
In Divine contrast to the dark lies of the Satanspel, the Gospel (literally, “Good news” or “God’s story”) is the Truth of Jesus Christ. Jesus, whose name means “God saves”, brings the Divine good news that God Is and Man can be saved by God through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, He, Himself, is the Good News, for He is God who comes into the world through the Incarnation to save Man from the dark spell cast by Satan. The Good News is the Story of Salvation for mankind. The Good News is that, rather than the randomness of deconstruction and cold evolutionary forces without a plot or storyline, there is the Truth of the Salvation Story in Jesus Christ.
What Jesus Teaches as Divine Evangelist
The Gospel Himself, Jesus Christ the Divine Evangelist teaches that:
There is a Kingdom of God – Rather then the confusion and waywardness of Israel or the deception of the human tendency to want to become gods, Jesus Christ brings the Good News that God exists and rules eternity in His Kingdom (CCC 544).
Salvation is the Story – Rather then a long string of meaningless events, human history has a trajectory in God. Even in the treason of Eden, God describes the victory over Satan in the protoevangelium (Gen 3:15; CCC 410), in which Mary, the New Eve, through her seed Jesus Christ, will conquer evil. The Gospel is the Good News of the God Story, that Man can be saved from Original Sin and death, that Satan has been defeated (CCC 1086) and that there is a way of life and a way of death (CCC 1696). Jesus Christ is the turning point in Salvation History, fulfilling all the promises by God in the Old Testament (CCC 1964-70). Men are given a real history, a family history, in the Bible and the Traditions of the Church.
Jesus, Himself, is the Good News of the New Covenant – In the Incarnation, Jesus gives definitive proof of God’s existence. Jesus pays a high price and works tirelessly to bring the Good News, walking thousands of miles, healing the multitudes, living without a home, accepting the Will of the Father to submit to the injustice of puny men unto death. In the Incarnation, Jesus gives God a human face and man preserves this idea of Christ’s Good News in the blessings of Icons (CCC 1160).
Man must repent and accept the Good News – Jesus comes to set the record straight. Man is in deep trouble because of Original Sin, which is the opposite of the Gospel (CCC 389). Man must reject the false idols of human gods and scientific rationalism. Man has a choice and is accountable (1 Pt 4:17) for conversion (CCC 1427). Man will either be in the kingdom or outside with “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 22:13). Man must not be ashamed of the Gospel (Rom 1:15), “live a life worthy of the Gospel” (CCC 1692) and be prepared to give up all for the Gospel (CCC 2544).
There is Salvation in Christ – Jesus Christ ushers in a New Covenant, paying the price for human sin through His Crucifixion and offering all men the new life of the Resurrection (CCC 571). Christ teaches that there is no salvation for man without self-sacrificing love.
Man must embrace the Gospel through lifelong catechesis– Jesus Christ, Himself, is the Word, which is the Gospel. The Gospel is promulgated in writing and speaking (CCC 76). Man must continually be catechized and pass along the faith to the next generation through education/catechesis (CCC 2226).
Man must embrace the Church – Jesus Christ establishes His Church so that men can know the Truth be given Grace through the Sacraments. The Apostles pass along the authority for Christ’s Church on earth to bishops so that “the full and living Gospel might be preserved in the Church” (CCC 77) as their first and primary task (CCC 888). The Gospel is preached at every mass (CCC 1160). Christ establishes communio in the Church and the fraternity of brotherhood (CCC 2636).
Men are commanded to evangelize – Jesus preaches the Gospel with His own lips (CCC 75) and commands the Apostles to understand and preach the Gospel to all nations (Matt 26:13; Mark 13:10) for it is good news for all nations (CCC 528). Today, Man is called to be obedient evangelists (CCC 3; CCC 673), for the preaching of the Gospel has the power through the Holy Spirit to renew culture in Christ (CCC 2527). Man must take the Gospel seriously for it has been passed down for 2000 years with great hardship and sacrifice.
Responding to the Gospel has requirements – To fully respond to the Gospel, Man must embrace renewal in prayer (CCC 821) and be drawn into the sacraments (CCC 977). Jesus leaves a perpetual evangelization of man through the Sacraments (CCC 1247). To bear witness and promulgate the Gospel, Man must live a life faithful to the Gospel (CCC 2044: CCC 2226; CCC 2472).
Men must persevere to preach the Gospel – Christ teaches that there is great resistance to His Gospel, and despite apparent defeats and setbacks, Man must never cease to preach the Gospel (CCC 854).
He will send the Holy Spirit – Key to the Gospel is the promise that Christ makes to send the Holy Spirit to give the power to transmit the Gospel (CCC 2600, 2640).
The New Age of Moral Darkness
The western world has entered a new age of moral darkness (see Evangelium Vitae, Building a Civilization of Love). Under the guise of “enlightenment” and modernity, human dignity and freedom are being increasingly suppressed by a secular totalitarian state. Assaults against the dignity of human life are pervasive through legalized abortion, euthanasia and embryo destruction/genetic manipulation. Culture elites, the media and liberal activists are promoting sexual “freedom”, including the “hook up” culture and the homosexual micro-culture through mass media and the Internet. Government, academic, cultural activists are seeking to both denigrate and restrict religious liberty by enacting laws and regulations to force the acceptance of contraception, abortion and homosexual “marriages” against religious conscience. There is a grave assault occurring on the Body of Christ.
The majority of people are being engulfed by the growing moral darkness. Millions of children are being aborted and many millions are being born to single women. Large and growing numbers of adults are forgoing marriage or choosing to divorce, gravely injuring themselves and their children. Depression and suicide rates, especially among young people, are growing. Worse, growing numbers are losing sight of their eternal salvation, living their earthly lives without the light of Christ.
The Faltering Courage of Modern Men
Many men are confused and afraid to respond to the darkening culture. Some mistakenly attempt to “man-up” by engaging in thrill-seeking behavior (X-treme sports, flash mobs, etc.), sexual conquest, wild partying or in “manly” activities (hunting, fishing, sports, etc.). Others retreat into perpetual adolescence, fade into feminization or succumb to homosexualization. In the face of mass moral confusion and the relentless cultural pounding of “political correctness”, rather then standing and defending the moral high ground, men are being cowed into timidity or distracted displays of false courage. Sadly, many Catholic men falter in courage and fall into cowardice.
En-courage-ment from the Courage of Jesus Christ
Christ perfectly demonstrates the virtue of courage to en-courage men. The word “virtue” is defined as a “manly moral strength” and comes from the Latin, vir, meaning “man.” Courage, or fortitude, is one of cardinal virtues (CCC 1805), is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1831), is defined as “to make strong, to hearten” and comes from the Latin, cor (heart).
Jesus Christ, fortified by the Father and the Holy Spirit, comes to encourage (to make strong, to hearten) man, through His perfect demonstration of heroic courage:
Learns courage from the Virgin Mary and Joseph – Jesus Christ begins life as a refugee, His earthly father Joseph and the Virgin Mother escape Herod’s slaughter of the Innocents (Matt 2:13, 16). Jesus is raised, knowing the great courage of Mary’s fiat and Joseph’s chaste heroism and their total commitment to serve God in the face of persecution.
Stands up against Satan – Jesus stands up to and defeats Satan (1 John 3:8) when tempted in the Wilderness (Matt 4:10), by repeatedly casting out demons (cf. Matt 8:28-34) and by using the Satan-inspired evil of Judas (Luke 22:3) for the Glory of the Cross and Resurrection (CCC 2853). He defeats Satan on his home turf (Hell) when Jesus descends to offer His “redemptive works to all men of all times and all places…” (CCC 634). Christ’s courage against absolute and powerful evil is unflinching.
Evangelizes despite the ongoing plots to kill Him – After John the Baptist is imprisoned and eventually murdered, Jesus returns to Galilee to pick up where John left off (Mark 1:14). On many occasions, various groups plan and attempt to kill Him (John 5:16; Mark 7:5; John 7:30; John 8:59; John 10:20; Luke 13:31; John 11:53; Luke 19:47). Jesus courageously persists despite the murderous plots.
Stands up to false teachings of the Jewish elites – Repeatedly, He confronts the Pharisees and the Sadducees and provocatively corrects their falsehoods. He heals the paralytic (Mark 2:7) and the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Matt 12:10) to demonstrate His authority (Mark 2:7). Jesus pronounces the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit of the teachers of the law (Mark 3:22). He pronounces woe on the Pharisees and the experts of the law for their hypocrisy (Luke 11:53-54). Despite constant death threats, Jesus authoritatively teaches in the temple during Passion Week (Mark 11:27-28).
Stands up against corrupt economic powers – Jesus confronts the merchants and moneychangers and single-handedly clears the massive (35 acres) temple area (John 2:2:18; Matt 11:18).
Stands up against bloodthirsty mobs – Jesus braves the Nazareth mob that tries to cast Him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). He stands up to the bloodthirsty mob that is going to stone the adulterous woman (John 7:53-8:11). He protects the disciples from the violent legion when He is taken in the Garden (John 18:8). Jesus Christ alone is unafraid and courageous against any and all ruthless mobs.
Overcomes His anguish in Gethsemane – Jesus Christ, knowing full well the physical torture He will endure, sweats blood in His anguish but courageously accepts the Father’s will (Mark 14:32-42).
Stands up against the Romans – Despite the well-known horrific tactics of the Romans, Jesus Christ does not falter when questioned by Pilate, knowing that Pilate could spare Him (Matt 27:1-26).
Endures persecution and torture courageously – Though Jesus has many chances to recant or to finesse His Gospel, He does not yield, enduring beating, scourging, being forced to carry His Cross and being crucified (Matt 27:27-50).
Accepts death on the Cross with courage – Jesus makes an infinite sacrifice, for His life is of infinite value and he gives it for the sins of all mankind. He chooses a horrible death freely (John 10:18), saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In this, Jesus teaches to face the “hour of death” with courage (CCC 1014), promises to send the Holy Spirit to provide courage in old age and illness (CCC 1520) and gives men the strength to be martyrs for Christ (CCC 2473).
Modern Man’s Aversion to Kings and Kingdoms
The word “monarchy” comes from the Latin, monarchia, meaning, “absolute rule, the ruling of one.” Monarchies, a form of human government, are ruled by a king (or queen) and have been around since early human history. Much of Western civilization has its roots in monarchies. Today, while about 20% of countries in the world are formerly called monarchies, few actually give more then ceremonial recognition to kings or queens.
Living in a democracy in the 21st century, the idea of kings and kingdoms is a foreign concept. The U.S. was founded based on the specific rejection of monarchy of the King of England. Americans value independence and reject the idea of being “subjects”, fiercely supporting democracy in the political realm.
Catholic men are called to recognize that Jesus Christ is the Divine King, the Messiah and that they are His subjects. Men are called to give total allegiance to the King, to kneel before Him in adoration and continually give themselves to Him. Recognizing the Truth of the Divine Kingship of Jesus Christ can help men become more loyal subjects of Christ.
The Divine Kingship of Jesus Christ
Messiah, or Christ in the Greek, comes from the Hebrew, meaning “the anointed one.” Since the time of the Prophets, a Messiah was foretold who would restore the fallen Kingdom of Israel and bring salvation to the world (CCC 763). Angels foretold of the coming of the Messiah to the Blessed Virgin, calling Jesus “great”, “the Son of the Most High” and that “He will reign…for ever…and His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:31-33). Pagan kings found the Christ Child and “fell down and worshiped Him” (Matt 2:11) and King Herod, fearing his kingdom, slaughtered the Innocents (Matt 2:16).
Jesus, the Messiah King, is royally anointed by the Holy Spirit at His Baptism (Luke 3:21-22), and begins to preach about His Kingdom, saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17). The devil tries to unsuccessfully tempt Jesus with “all the kingdoms of the world” (Matt 4:8). Andrew and Peter realize that they “have found the Messiah” (John 1:41).
Jesus continually teaches about the Kingdom of God throughout His ministry: in the Beatitudes (Matt 5:2-12), in numerous parables and in the Our Father (Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done…). The people attempt to forcefully make Him king (John 6:15), but Jesus instead later enters Jerusalem like a Davidic king (CCC 560). Pilate mistakenly concludes the Jesus is simply the King of the Jews and has Jesus crucified when the people say, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15). After the resurrection, Jesus teaches for forty days about the Kingdom of Heaven (CCC 659).
The Catholic Church has always recognized the Divine Kingship of Jesus Christ and reserves the last Sunday of the liturgical year for the Feast of Christ the King.
What Jesus Teaches through His Divine Kingship
Jesus Christ, and His Church, teaches the great importance of the Divine Kingship of Jesus Christ:
The Kingdom is an urgent reality – Jesus greatly emphasizes the Kingdom of God/Heaven and that men must urgently turn towards Christ, for the Kingdom is ‘at hand’ (cf. Luke 9:60; 9:62).
Jesus Christ is the Divine King – Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of King David, the King of Kings, a Divine King anointed by the Holy Spirit (CCC 436). He “accompanies His words with many “mighty works and wonders and signs”, which manifest that the kingdom is present in Him and attests that he was the promised Messiah” (CCC 547). He performs many signs to make known the Mysteries of the Kingdom of God (CCC 1151). He is the Perfect King (CCC 578), a Merciful King (CCC 545), a Heroic King who comes to free the slaves and the poor (CCC 544) through His own sacrificing death.
Jesus Christ has complete dominion as Divine King – Jesus, as Divine King, sits at the right hand of the Father and has an everlasting dominion (i.e. authority, rule and power) over all men (CCC 664; Matt 28:18). Jesus warns that “all judgment is given to the Son” (John 5:22) and that those who do not do the will of the Father will not enter the Kingdom (Matt 7:21).
All men are called to be His devoted subjects – Jesus calls all men to conversion, to repent and work for the Kingdom (CCC 2608). Men ultimately must choose who they will serve, either Jesus Christ or Satan “who act(s) in the world out of hatred for God and his Kingdom in Christ Jesus” (CCC 395). Men must give their complete devotion to Jesus Christ as the martyrs have done, with “matchless devotion towards [our] king and master” (CCC 957).
As subjects, men are called to serve the Divine King – Men are called to pick up their crosses and follow Jesus. He warns that lukewarm commitments or attachment to riches keep men from the Kingdom of Heaven (Luke 18:25). “One must give everything…Words are not enough, deeds are required” (CCC 546). Though subjects, men are part of a royal office of Jesus Christ (CCC 786). Men are called to be the King’s co-workers (CCC 307) to hasten the fulfillment of the Kingdom (CCC 2046).
Men must give obedience to the Church – Jesus, the Divine King, gives Peter the keys to the Kingdom (CCC 553) and supreme earthly authority has passed to each successive Pope and the college of bishops (CCC 869). Catholics are called to obedience to the teachings of the Church (CCC 891).
Men are called to adore Jesus Christ the Eucharist – The real presence of Jesus Christ, the Divine King, is in His Church and in the Eucharist (CCC 1088, 1373). In the Mass, men are given a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven (CCC 2770). “Adoration is the first attitude of man…[and] homage of the spirit to the “King of Glory” is a necessity… (CCC 2628). Men are called to worship the Divine King through adoration of the Eucharist: “The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it…” (CCC 1378). Like many who were awed by Christ in the Gospels, all men are called to kneel and worship their King.
Men are called to evangelize – Jesus commands the Apostles to spread the Good News of the Kingdom to all the world (Matt 28:16-20). As subjects of the King, “the laity are made to share in the priestly, prophetical, and kingly office of Christ” (CCC 873), “to spread the Kingdom of Christ over all the earth” (CCC 863).
Disobedience and Destruction
The word “Obedience” comes from the Latin, oboedire, meaning “to obey, pay attention to, give ear.” The Church teaches that obedience “in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself” (CCC 144).
The disobedience of men to the Father traces back to Eden. “Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command…All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in His goodness” (CCC 397). Man’s “concupiscence” leads him to pursue pleasure to the point of sin, rising up in rebellion and disobedience against God (cf. CCC 1871). Since Satan deceived Adam, men have rebelled against the Father.
Disobedience is an epidemic today. All over the world, angry men are rebelling against governments, society, religion and all forms of authority. Feral young men are forming flash mobs around the world, bent on destructiveness, confusing mutiny for manhood. Men are rebelling against the “constraints” of marriage, siring children out of wedlock and divorcing wives. Sons are rebelling against fathers. Men actively and passively rebel against organized religion, choosing to sin rather then be held to a moral standard. Men, blessed to be Catholic, abandon or neglect their faith, becoming Casual Catholics.
Disobedience is destructive. Man’s disobedience has tragic consequences: the harmony of Creation is broken and man is subject to the bondage of decay, pain and death (CCC 399-400). History catalogs the destructive perpetual wars of man against man, of sons against fathers. Today’s society shows the awful scars of disobedience; destruction of the family, addictions to pornography and other perverted sexual behavior, addictions to alcohol and drugs, the murder of children in the womb, mental illness, social unrest and widespread criminality. At the center of all human suffering is disobedience to God.
Each man, young or old, is called to obedience to God, and each man, in his own way, has the need to be more obedient to God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, comes to the world to teach men that joy and true manhood is gained through obedience to the Father.
What Jesus Teaches through His Obedience
Jesus Christ, the King of All Creation, the most powerful human of all time, seeks to save men through His perfect obedience to the Father. Through His Perfect Obedience, Jesus teaches:
The salvation of obedience to God – Jesus is resurrected from the dead after the obedience of the Cross for the Father. This spectacular gift of salvation sets right the disobedience of Adam, through the obedience of Jesus Christ, the New Adam (CCC 411). All sin today, “like the first sin, it is disobedience…and is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation” (CCC 1850). “The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing” (CCC 1009).
To keep the 10 Commandments – As the Son of God, Jesus Christ is perfectly obedient to all the commandments of His heavenly Father. His obedience to the Fourth Commandment to the Virgin Mother Mary and his legal father, Joseph, anticipates the obedience of Holy Thursday (CCC 532). As the Obedient Son, Jesus teaches men to obey their parents, for it pleases the Lord (CCC 2217).
The Devil is defeated through obedience to God – Jesus shows how one can beat the devils’ temptations through His complete obedience to God in each of His responses to the Devil’s temptations (Matt 4:1-11). “Jesus is the new Adam who… (is) totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror… Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.” (CCC 539).
To be obedient in work – “By his obedience to…his humble work during the long years in Nazareth, Jesus gives us the example of holiness in the daily life of family and work.” (CCC 564).
To obediently serve the poor – If man is to be obedient to Jesus Christ, man must obediently serve the “poor and suffering” as Jesus obediently served (CCC 786).
Be obedient to His call to Evangelize – “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder…strives to preach the Gospel to all men”(CCC 849). “This mission continues and…the Church, urged on by the Spirit of Christ, must walk the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience” (CCC 852).
That holy obedience can overcome sinful passions – Jesus Christ’s obedience unto death gives men freedom through a holy life to make their bodies “obedient” and to resist “rebellion in (man’s) soul.” (CCC 908).
To render unto Caesar… – Jesus Christ teaches that God, first and foremost, must be obeyed, but that man must also cooperate with legitimate authority by “rendering unto Caesar” (Matt 22:21). But when human authority abuses “natural law or the Law of the Gospel”, Christians are called upon to obediently defend their rights and the Church (CCC 1897, 2242, 2286).
The Obedience of Prayer – Jesus followed strict habits of prayer, adoration of the Father and keeping the commandments. “Contemplative prayer is hearing the Word of God. Far from being passive, such attentiveness is the obedience of faith, the unconditional acceptance of a servant, and the loving commitment of a child.” (CCC 2716).
The example of the consecrated life – “In imitation of the Obedience of Christ, as an evangelical counsel, the faithful may profess a vow of obedience; a public vow of obedience, accepted by Church authority, is one element that characterized the consecrated life” (CCC 915).
Man’s Aversion to Poverty
Throughout history, there have been many explanations of the existence of poverty. Poverty is sometimes seen as the just wrath of God for a particular people’s sinfulness. Some see the poor as parasites seeking a free ride on the productive class. Some see poverty as a failing of human society to provide the means and opportunities for the poor.
Regardless of the reason poverty exists, modern man has a great aversion to poverty. Governments focus on economic growth and social safety nets, seeking to win the “war on poverty”. Vast taxes are collected and redistributed and charitable organizations plead for money to give to the poor. Many people battle against poverty by feeding the poor, going on mission trips or volunteering in homeless shelters. There is a hope that somehow poverty can somehow be eradicated like a disease, reduced or at least conveniently kept out of plain sight to reduce the guilt of the prosperous.
Instead of poverty, the modern culture embraces a wholesale pursuit of over-the-top material prosperity. In the secular society, lives are mortgaged to the hilt in order to consume like the prosperous, to support an unsupportable level of consumption. Every appetite is catered to in “supersize” fashion, be it the amount of food consumed, the size and finish of homes lived in, the cars driven, the entertainment and thrills pursued, the alcohol and drugs consumed or the pornography viewed. In some religious movements, a “prosperity gospel” is excitedly preached, a false belief that God’s whole point of creating humans is so they can be materially prosperous; the idea of “abundance” is twisted into irrational materialism.
Clearly, the modern world has an insatiable ambition for prosperity and an fearful aversion to poverty.
Jesus Christ’s Gospel of Poverty
In stark contrast, Jesus Christ, in the Incarnation, fully embraces poverty.
Rather then coming in material riches worthy of God, Jesus wholly embraces poverty. Stooping from the unimaginable infinity of His Divinity, God takes on the limiting poverty of humanity in the Incarnation. Jesus stoops to the lowest entry point of humanity, bypassing earthly riches and power, coming as a helpless child born to a young woman and an earthly father who is a “backwoods” carpenter. Jesus, the God of the Universe, allows Himself to be further bound in swaddling clothing, helpless and poor. His early life is spent on the run as a refugee in Egypt.
When He launches His public ministry, Jesus lives a life that embraces poverty. After His baptism, Jesus goes into the wilderness, living as a starving person might, without food for forty days. He lives the life of a poor itinerate preacher, walking on foot for thousands of miles and often sleeping outdoors. He lives with the poor, heals the poorest of the poor, the blind, the lame, the lepers and the possessed. He lives like the homeless, saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt 8:20). Jesus tells the rich young man to give away all his possessions and to follow Him (Luke 18:22). He applauds the destitute widow who, even in her poverty, gives a penny to the Jewish treasury (Mark 12:42-44). Prior to Holy week, Jesus spends time in Bethany (from the Aramaic, meaning “The House of Poverty”). Jesus dies like a common criminal, stripped bare, beaten and hung on the Cross and watches the soldiers gamble for His robe, His one material possession (John 19:23-24).
There can be no denying that Jesus Christ embraces poverty and that “poverty” is one of the core messages in the Gospel; Jesus preaches a Gospel of Poverty. Jesus comes to “preach good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). “Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross, He experiences hunger, thirst and privation” (CCC 544).
Jesus Christ, in His Divine Genius, identifies and becomes the very embodiment of His Gospel message through His embrace of poverty.
What Jesus Teaches – The Point of His Poverty
How do we reconcile the great abundance of life that Jesus promises with His purposeful embrace of poverty?
The definition of poverty – Poverty comes from the Latin, pauper “poor,” perhaps a compound of paucus “little” and parare “to get”. In the Beatitudes, the word “poor” comes from the Aramaic word ányâ (or Hebrew ani) meaning, “bent down, afflicted, miserable”. Those in poverty get little, are bent down, afflicted and miserable.
Mankind must realize its complete dependence on God – The first words of Jesus’ first sermon (The Sermon on the Mount) are:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3). In this phrase, Jesus articulates both man’s helpless state and the foundational motivation that man must seek salvation. We are all paupers, “bent over”, “getting little” and “afflicted” in a life that is only material, for we all suffer pain, illness and eventually death. When we acknowledge “the spirit”, that we are more then material, we must also acknowledge that we are trivial paupers compared to our awesome God. Jesus teaches that those who accept that God exists and that all humans have a radical dependence on God, are the “poor in spirit”. In this realization of spiritual poverty, man opens himself up to the Salvation of Christ in the promise of heaven. “The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with their humble hearts” (CCC 544).
Idolizing wealth draws mankind away from God – Over and over, Jesus makes it clear that the idolization and pursuit of wealth leads to death. He teaches that, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matt 19:24). Christ teaches that we must “practice the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to the world’s goods” (CCC 2407). He tells us, “You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt 6:24).
Jesus’ poverty inspires us to love the poor – In His complete embrace of poverty, Jesus Christ becomes poverty. “Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Humble shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty, heaven’s glory was made manifest” (CCC 525). He identifies with the poor, saying, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me” (Matt 25:45). “The Lord asks us to love as He does…and [to love] the poor as Christ Himself” (CCC 1825). We are to serve “the poor and suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder” (CCC 786). Jesus teaches that all people, even the poorest of the poor, are worthy of respect and are worthy of love. If we are to love and follow Jesus Christ, we must love the poverty of Jesus Christ and we must love those whom Jesus Christ loved: the poor.
Jesus’ example of poverty prepares us to be disciples – In life, there is hardship and in being disciples we must be prepared for pain. Jesus teaches, “by His poverty He calls us to accept freely the privation and persecutions that may come our way” (CCC 520). “All Christ’s faithful are to live with the ‘spirit of evangelical poverty’” (CCC 2546). As the Body of the Christ, each of us in the Church are “urged on by the Spirit of Christ [and] must walk the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience” (CCC852).
The words and acts of Jesus compel us to serve the poor – Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matt 25:32-46) that man’s ultimate fate is decided by how they respond to His call to serve the poor. “Those who hold goods for use and consumption should use them with moderation, reserving the better part for guest, for the sick and the poor.” (CCC 2405). “God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them.” (CCC 2443). But we must also seek to serve the poor, by meeting their spiritual starvation: “When the poor have the good news preached to them it is a sign of Christ’s presence.” (CCC 2443).
In poverty, all men are dependent on the Eucharist – The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith (CCC 1324). At the core of Jesus’ genius of the Eucharist is the truth that all men are beggars, paupers, starving before God. In the Prodigal Son, the Prodigal, starving after wasting his inheritance and becoming a pauper competing with swine for food, returns to his father and a feast of the fatted calf (Luke 15:11-32). “The Eucharist commits us to the poor. To Receive in Truth the Body and Blood of Christ given up for us, we must recognize Christ in the poorest, his brethren.” (CCC 1397). All men are starving, hungry because of the emptiness of life without God. All men are spiritually in poverty, spiritually starving. All men need a Savior, all men need to be fed with bread from heaven. In the miracles of feeding the masses and in the establishing of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus drives home the point that all men are ultimately dependent on the Bread of Life for their salvation from spiritual desolation.
Here are some reasons to make sure to make this month’s ManNight:
- Many men have drifted away from their Catholic faith. They try to make their way in the increasingly confused culture. Jesus Christ is calling you, and all men, back to Him.
- The growing cultural darkness has had a particularly sad impact on young men. They are buffeted by all kinds of immoral messages and are encouraged to avoid manhood, especially Catholic manhood. Young men desperately need to be drawn into friendship with Jesus Christ. Young men need to witness, and be welcomed into, a community of Catholic men.
- Many studies have shown that the most important influence on a young man’s future faith life is the faith life of his father; if a father is a devout Catholic, chances are very good that the son will grow into Catholic manhood. Bringing your son to ManNight is an outstanding demonstration of your own faith and it will definitely help to draw your son to Jesus Christ.
- To grow in faith, each man must grow in friendship with Jesus Christ. To many men, Jesus is abstract and distant. In the Sacraments, prayer and study, men can get to know Jesus Christ better. As men grow in friendship with Jesus, their lives are forever changed, both in the present and the eternal. Each Catholic man must continually commit and act to draw closer to Jesus Christ.
- ManNight is a chance for Catholic men to get to know Jesus Christ better and to grow in true friendship with other Catholic men. Hundreds of Catholic men have been attending these events.
- Due to busy modern lives, we all face competing priorities. Some men might think, “I am too busy,” or that “I won’t get anything out of it.” In response to these kinds of excuses, I once heard a priest say, “Who said it was about you? Catholic men need to ‘show up’ to support other men in their faith lives.”
- Many men complain that Bishops and priests should do more, or do different things. Lay Catholic men need to do more for our clergy! Catholic men need to show up at events like this, to pray for, support and encourage our clergy. Show your support for clergy by showing up for the next ManNight.
Be part of the New Evangelization by bringing your son(s) and inviting a buddy and his son(s).
Men seek heroes
God has created men by nature and vocation with a natural desire for Himself (CCC 44) and men can only find happiness in God (CCC 27). But men become lost as they seek God due to ignorance and sin (CCC 397). Realizing real dangers in the world and the God-implanted understanding of the need for salvation, men aspire to heroic deeds and seek courageous heroes to protect and lead them through the challenges of life. The desire and need for true heroes is perennial in the hearts of men across time and cultures.
From an early age, boys naturally seek heroes. They look up to their fathers, older boys and other men as role models and as defenders/protectors. Boys are intrigued by the heroic deeds of fictional characters (e.g. Superheroes in movies, TV and books, videogame heroes, sports heroes, etc.). Boys admire and seek those with heroic virtues.
When grown, men continue to seek heroes. Some continue on with the fictional heroes of youth, trading comic books for the action/superheroes and celebrities in the media. Most men also look up to heroes in real life. Many follow and celebrate sports teams and athletes. Others admire and follow politicians, social activists or business leaders. Still others look up to and follow real life heroes in the military (e.g. medal of honor winners), religion (e.g. saints) and people who perform extraordinary deeds in the face of tough challenges (e.g. 911 responders, those who battle life-challenging illnesses, etc.). All men, in some way, desire to be heroes and to associate themselves with heroic leaders.
Men fall for false heroes
Many men are confused about the definition and true nature of heroism. Heroism is confused with celebrity. Heroism is confused with self-serving athleticism, political opportunists, charlatans who deceive, “anti-heroes” or outright scoundrels. The meaning of the word “hero” has been dumbed down to the point of being almost meaningless. Doing an Internet search for websites, news articles or images provides ample evidence of the misuse of the word “hero”. Heroism is associated with movie stardom, video games (e.g. Guitar Hero), relatively routine athletic accomplishments and even a sandwich. Sadly, many of the real life men who masquerade as heroes, fail, and fail spectacularly.
The Definition of “Hero”
The word “hero” comes from the Latin, hero, meaning, “defender, protector” and “to save, deliver, preserve, protect.” Closely related is the word, “Savior” which comes from the Latin, salvatorem, meaning “one who delivers or rescues from peril” or “heals.” Modern definitions of the word “hero” provide other characteristics of a hero. A hero: faces danger or adversity with courage; sacrifices self for the greater good of humanity; displays moral excellence”; “ is placed high above his fellows.”
Jesus – The True Hero
Jesus is infinitely higher above all other heroes – He is the Son of God; there can be no hero that compares. Heroes come and go, but only Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah. No hero, except Jesus, was anticipated for thousands of years before His birth and remains a hero two millennia after His death (and Resurrection).
He physically protects people on earth – He saves the Disciples who are in fear of drowning (Luke 8:22-25). He stands up to the bloodthirsty mob that is going to stone the adulterous woman (John 7:53-8:11). He protects the disciples from the violent legion when He is taken in the Garden (John 18:8). He is the ultimate protector.
Jesus is the perfect demonstration of virtue – He demonstrates prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude and charity with perfection that no man has met, or can ever, match.
He heals people from sickness, madness and death – Jesus healed the multitudes of every illness and raises them from the dead.
He stands for Truth against falsehood – Repeatedly, He confronts the Pharisees and the Sadducees and corrects their falsehoods, despite their collusion to kill Him. He refuses to yield to Pilate, even as Pilate threatens Him with death. Jesus is Truth itself (John 14:6).
Jesus defeats man’s greatest foe, Satan – There is no greater enemy of man than Satan. Jesus defeats Satan (1 John 3:8) when tempted in the Wilderness (Matt 4:10), by casting out demons (Matt 8:28-34), and by using the Satan-inspired evil of Judas (Luke 22:3) for the Glory of the Cross and Resurrection (CCC 2853 ). He defeats Satan on his home turf (Hell) when Jesus descends to offer His “redemptive works to all men of all times and all places…” (CCC 634). Only Jesus delivers us from evil.
He defeats man’s greatest scourge, Sin – He saves people from sin (CCC 2854). For example, He tells the sinful woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”(Luke 7:50).
He sacrifices Himself for others – Jesus makes an infinite sacrifice, for His life is of infinite value and he gives it for the sins of all mankind. He chooses a horrible death freely (John 10:18), saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).
He offers salvation for all mankind – His Name means “God saves” (CCC 430) and it is only the name of Jesus that can actually save (Acts 4:12). “Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of His cross…” (CCC 517). “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). “For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10). “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
He is recognized as a Savior during His life on earth – The Samaritans profess, “It is no longer because of your words that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42).
Definitions : “Miracle” – Latin miraculum “object of wonder” and “marvelous event caused by God“. “Resurrection” – Latin resurrectionem “a rising again from the dead.”
1) Miracles before the Passion
- Jesus predicts His Passion and Resurrection – Jesus repeatedly predicts His Passion and Resurrection in the Gospels. In Matt 20:18-19, Jesus gives a highly detailed prophesy identifying his betrayers (Jewish priests and scribes), that He would be scourged and crucified by the Romans and rise on the third day.
- The Miracle of the Passover and Passion – Jesus chooses the place (Jerusalem, the Jewish spiritual capital) and the time (the Passover, the Holiest Jewish feast) of His Passion. This choice ensures that huge numbers of Jewish pilgrims will witness the Passion, pilgrims who will later spread the news about Jesus across the Mideast. By using the Passover (celebrated for over 1300 years) for His Passion, Jesus radically redefines what the Holy Day means by becoming the Paschal Lamb that was sacrificed to take away the sins of the world.
2) Miracles between the Passion and Resurrection
- God accepts the death of His Son – In the Incarnation, the eternal Word takes flesh and was “crucified, died and was buried” (CCC 571-630). It is wondrous that God would so love humans that He would descend, incarnate and accept human death to save us from sin/death (John 3:16).
- Christ’s death reconciles humans to God – “By His death, Christ liberates us from sin…” (CCC 654). The un-payable debt of sin, from the time of Adam, is paid as Christ dies, saying “It is finished” (John 19:30), a term that in Roman times signified the full and final payment of a debt.
- Jesus descends into Hell – Jesus, having died, descends into Hell to offer redemption to righteous people who died before the Passion (CCC 632-635). This mysterious miracle confirms the completeness of “Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places…”(CCC 634).
3) Miracles at the Resurrection
- His body is uncorrupted – Despite being dead for three days with massive wounds, there is no corruption/decay of His body (Acts 2:27, CCC 627). It defies human experience.
- He transcends human experience by rising from the dead (Matt 28:1-10 Mark 16:1-20; Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1-31) – With the Father’s help, Jesus “effects his own Resurrection by virtue of his divine power” (John 10:17-18; CCC 649). He is not a ghost (Luke 24:39). His Resurrection is not simply the reviving of a dead person like the other people whom Jesus raised (Luke 7:11-17; Mk 5:22-24; John 11:1-44) for all of them eventually died. Jesus’ Resurrection is “about breaking out into an entirely new form of life, into a life that is no longer subject to the law of dying…a life that opens us a new dimension of human existence.”
- His resurrected body is miraculous – The horrific physical wounds of Christ included serious face and head wounds, head wounds due to the crown of thorns, full body scourging (120 lacerations), dehydration, large nail holes in His hands and feet, being pierced through the heart and having no food or water for three days while in the tomb. One who didn’t die from these wounds would certainly be hospitalized for weeks. Yet, Jesus rises with a miraculously healed body, a body that still shows the wounds of the crucifixion (Luke 24:40) including a pierced heart (John 20:20) that again works. The Gospels don’t mention the horrific wounds of the scourging, the beating or the crown of thorns after the Resurrection, which apparently are not noticeable.
- His Resurrection opens up a new life for all humans – “By His Resurrection, He opens for us the way to a new life…[a] new life that is above all justification that reinstates us in God’s Grace…we too might walk in the newness of life…[and we] become Christ’s brethren.” (CCC 654).
4) Miracles from the Resurrection to the Ascension
- Jesus appears with His Resurrected body – Jesus’ “real body possess the new properties of a glorious body: not limited by space and time but able to be present how and when he wills…” (CCC 645). He can disguise and reveal His appearance at will (Luke 24:16; John 20:14,19). He can appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31). He eats and drinks (Acts 10:41) and allows others to touch Him (John 20:27). On the day of the Resurrection, He walks about 6 miles to Emmaus, shares a meal and teaches for an extended period.
- Jesus reveals the fullness of Salvation History – At Emmaus, Jesus explains the meaning of the Old Testament to the disciples, filling them with awe (Luke 24:32). The Incarnation reveals that the hidden meaning of the Old Testament is the dying of the Savior for our sins (1 Cor 15:3).
- Jesus appears and interacts with many disciples – Jesus appears many times to many people including Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9; John 20:11-16), Peter and John, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the Twelve and five hundred disciples (and to Paul after the Ascension) (1 Cor 15:5-8).
- Jesus Ascends to heaven – After His Resurrection, Jesus predicts that He will ascend to heaven (John 20:17) and, after 40 days, miraculously ascends into the clouds (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:6-11). The stunned disciples then see two men in white robes who say, “Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
- Jesus sends the Holy Spirit – At Pentecost (Acts 2), Jesus’ promise to send the Holy Spirit (John 14:16; 15:26) is fulfilled.
 Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011), xxii-xxiii.
The Pain and Suffering of Jesus
“Pain” – From Latin: poena, meaning” torment, hardship”; ” condition one feels when hurt, opposite of pleasure” and “punishment.” “Suffering” – From Latin: sufferer, meaning “to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under.”
The Pain and Suffering of Jesus (Catechism and Bible references noted; for other references regarding the pain and suffering of Jesus, see footnote below).
- Experiences the pain of being human – Jesus “became flesh in assuming a true humanity“ (CCC 476) and felt the many physical and emotional pains of being human. Thomas Aquinas assures us that “Christ endured every human suffering” and that “Christ’s pain was the very greatest.” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae; III, q. 46).
- From an early age, Jesus feels a longing for the Father – At 12, Jesus feels the longing for God in the temple, though He obediently returns with Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:41-50).
- Suffers during the Temptation – Jesus fasts for 40 days and felt hunger (Matt 4:2).
- Lives a physically demanding life – A first century carpenter needed great physical strength and stamina and Jesus experienced fatigue and soreness. As itinerant preacher, Jesus walked many miles (one source suggests almost circumference of the earth; 25,000 miles) and felt fatigue.
- Anticipates the great suffering of the Passion – As early as the Marriage at Cana, Jesus realizes that His “Hour” is coming (John 2:4). He predicts His Crucifixion and death multiple times.
- Feels sorrow – Prior to raising Lazarus from the dead, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). Later, after the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus poignantly laments and weeps over the waywardness of the people of Israel (Matt 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-44).
- Experiences the desecration of His Father’s House – He violently cleanses the temple of the money-changers and traders which He refers to as a “den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). The disciples interpret Christ’s emotion as “zeal” (John 2:17).
- The poignancy of the Last Supper – We can imagine that Jesus experienced both joy but also poignant sorrow at the trials He would face, the betrayal/death of Judas and the scattering and coming anguish of the disciples.
- Experiences agony in Garden of Gethsemane – Knowing from practical and His Divine experience of the horrors of crucifixion, He prays, alone, uncomforted by His sleeping disciples. Jesus sweats blood (Luke 22:44), a rare and painful condition called hematidrosis that occurs during times of great stress/mental suffering, leaving the skin extremely tender and fragile. Dehydration has begun.
- Experiences the failure of His disciples – In the Garden, Jesus experiences the betrayal of Judas, who ironically betrays Him with a kiss (Luke 22:48) and the violence of Peter (Luke 22:51). Predicting that Peter will deny Him, Jesus then witnesses Peter’s denial (Luke 22:61).
- Goes without food, drink and sleep – From the Last Supper, Jesus goes without food, water or sleep during a time of significant stress and physical exertion. He is forced to walk over 2 miles as He is paraded before the Jewish leadership, Pilate and Herod.
- Is beaten and brutally scourged – There are several instances where Jesus is struck in the face and head (Matt 26:67 27:30) causing bruising and swelling. His nose was battered and swollen. The scourging (Matt 27:26) ripped His flesh in places to the bone, leaving over 120 wounds over His back, sides, legs and arms which ooze blood/plasma.
- His head is punctured with the crown of thorns – The nail-like thorns penetrated the skin in many places and perhaps the skull, causing great pain and a marked loss of blood (Matt 27:29).
- Struggles with the Cross – Jesus carries the Cross with help from Simon of Cyrene (John 19:17) a distance of almost ½ mile uphill. The Cross is heavy (100-200 pounds) bruising His shoulders. He falls three times scraping the skin off His knees.
- Is Crucified – Weakened, He is nailed to the Cross with iron spikes that were driven through His palms and feet (John 25:20). The nerve density makes these wounds particularly painful and there was a significant loss of blood.
- Mentally suffers on the Cross – He waits for death, watching Mary, John and others grieve for Him. He feels sorrow for those who kill Him, asking “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He cries out to the Father in anguish (Matt 27:46).
- Physically suffers and dies on the Cross – For three long hours, His many wounds hurt. He struggles to relieve the searing nerve pain and ripping flesh by nails. His shoulders ache as the joints are pulled. He thirsts due to lack of water and dehydration from blood loss and sweating. His painful cause of death by some combination of loss of blood, shock and asphyxiation.
The Two Questions
Question 1 – What aspects of Jesus’ pain and suffering touches you most?
Question 2 – How can the example of Jesus help you in your own pain and suffering?
 Pierre Barbet, A Doctor at Calvary (Fort Collins, Roman Catholic Books, reprint 1993); William D. Edwards – On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ (The Journal of American Medical Association, March 21, 1986; V 256); Frederick T. Zugibe, A Forensic Way of the Cross (International Science Symposium, March 2000).
The following is the talk that Father Christopher Beaudet gave at the Delano ManNight on March 25, 2011.