A seminarian relayed a story to me of a priest saying, “Boys are not ordained. Men are ordained.” Does that mean every human being with an XY chromosome over a certain age? Does that mean a man has proven himself through multiple demonstrations of machismo?
What does it mean to be a man in today’s society?
I wrote last week in “Boys Will Be Boys” of the importance of allowing ourselves to get dirty and to not be afraid of getting hurt. But, being a man is not the same as being filthy and broken. Being a man also has to do with how he moves forward after accepting this dirt and blood. To be a man means to provide, to love, to sacrifice in order for another to live. A good example of manhood can come from looking at the first man – Adam, created out of dirt, and while sleeping, had his rib taken out. Through his loss, a great gain was brought into the world as God created Eve. Adam’s loss was his participation in God’s creation. This goes with how men can recognize the importance of their everyday sacrifices.
So much about being a man has to do with giving something up in order for something greater to come into being. A man proves himself through sharing the love God has given him. He does not keep it for himself. We see such selfishness when guys refuse to grow up. They stay locked in boyish ambitions, seeking only what will make them feel good, and they give each other high-fives and chant, “You’re the man!” But, they remain stuck in a circle of self, often rounded off with promiscuity and social immaturity. While boys playing in dirt and chasing girls with earthworms may be a “Boys will be boys” sentiment, eventually he has to stop playing in the dirt, and start planting in the soil. He needs to stop chasing girls with earthworms and start thinking about how he can provide for her.
Hence, men become gentlemen. Not the kind of gentleman who puts on the fancy clothes and smiles at the important people because they will help him climb the ladder he so desperately looks up at. Rather, a gentleman who, when you shake his hand, you feel the callouses on his fingers, his grip tells you he has spent hours holding his head in his hands in prayer, trying to figure out how he is going to get through the next day. When he looks at you in greeting, his eyes show you a life where he has been through the wringer, squeezed of everything, and when he was finally dried out, he went back for more. He keeps going until there is nothing left. And, when he is empty and dry, he asks God for what he needs so he can go out and sacrifice even more, provide even more.
Entering Easter, let us put on our Sunday best. Thank God for the suffering that is asked of you. Easter Sunday, let us look to our risen Lord, and ask him to show us how to be a man, and specifically how to be the man he is calling us to be.
And when we shake his hand, and feel the hole of the nail there, we will know.