What does it take to be a man of God? The place of fraternity cultivates what we as men aspire to, masculinity. It sounds easy enough, but we don’t always cultivate the word of God in our heart (Col 3:16). We don’t always act in charity toward our brothers, sometimes we indulge in sin. Sometimes we use fraternity or brotherhood as justification for sin: “look, I go to Mass with my friends, I go to bible study: I’m fine.”
In a few words we will consider two sets of ideas. First, we will take a peek at the Mass and see what Jesus did in his fraternity of apostles; we will see what kind of charity Jesus acted in. Second, we will use part of the bible to understand why we tend to indulge ourselves instead of give of ourselves.
Charity: Fraternity cultivates masculinity by means of charity. Above all else, “God is love,” “Deus caritas est.” That Latin word caritas can be translated charity. God, as an image and model of love, as the most substantial Being of Love, gives of Himself. He is charitable. He is “liberal,” with his gift of life and love. In Jesus, “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” (Col. 1:19) and in Jesus therefore is a Godly man who knows how to give of himself, even in tough times.
Charity in the Mass:
“At the time he was betrayed,
and entered willingly into his passion…”
What’s that about? These two lines describe one of the most significant times in Jesus’ life. He was about to be betrayed by one of the twelve apostles. He was about to enter into his suffering and death. The priest at this point in the Mass voices this agonizing and tense moment. Jesus, one of us, had tough times. If someone told me, “Josue, this is the time you are to be betrayed, and enter into your passion,” it would 1) freak me out and 2) make me want to run away. Who would really want to endure betrayal from your closest friend? Do you really want to endure suffering and death as a means for Salvation? Is that a natural inclination of the human person?
Well, what does Jesus do at the time he was betrayed and entered willing into his passion?
“he took bread and, giving thanks, broke it,
and gave it to his disciples, saying…” (Eucharistic Prayer II)
Pause for a minute. At his most agonizing moment, he gives of himself! He does not hide; he does not play the blame game like Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:12-13). He gives of himself, not just halfheartedly, but in the most wholesome, humble, profound, and mysterious way ever done: The Eucharist. What man is this, can he actually give us his flesh to eat (Jn. 6:52)? This Man, when the odds are against him, when the fraternity was about to dissolve, doesn’t step back, he steps forward. Jesus of Nazareth strains forward to what lies ahead (Phil. 3:14) and lays his life down (Jn. 10:18) in obedience to God our Father and for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2).
The point is: He exercised charity in fraternity, even in the most painful moments of life, even when the brothers who vowed obedience to him fled from him. This man is a model for the world and is the one who will overcome this dictatorship of relativism and this immoral culture of America (at least for us college students). See about doing what Colossians 3:16 exhorts us to. The whole chapter can be read in the context of coming to know Jesus as Lord.
There’s a little bit about charity. And what of indulgence? Is it okay? Is it just a perennial problem that we are scrupulous about? Is it a sign of our minds being darkened by sin (Rom. 1:21)?
Fraternity can be a place for indulgence when we exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship the creature, not the Creator (Rom. 1:25). Comfort and pleasure feel nice, don’t they? This sober image of sin and lustful indulgence in Romans 1 is a stark contrast to what Jesus does at the Last Supper. We can use our church involvement as merit badges. We point to them and say, “look, I do this, therefore, I am so perfect and in no need of correction.” Fraternity can cultivate indulgence when we become complacent with our “merit badges” and when we value our accomplishments and progress more than He who guided us and led us to such truth (Jn. 16:13) about ourselves.
What is this tendency to indulge? My thinking is the preference of the tangible and material. Creation is good, of course. However, we can pursue it more than the Uncreated One. In fraternity, our influence on one another is mutual, as well as affective and effective. That little ache or tension we experience when going against a moral standard is desensitized. This happens especially when we are consoled and encouraged to move beyond or act against that good moral tension meant to order us to God.
The tendency to indulge in fraternity may also come in response to fear, conflict, or when we are asked to give of ourselves in a way that is good and uncomfortable. We may be afraid to be without consolation. We may be afraid to lose a friend in a conflict. We may be fearful to give of ourselves and receive nothing in return.
If I may encourage you in three interrelated ways… 1) Notice the fear, conflict, or charity request. 2) Take hold of it, accept it as real. That will help you understand what you are looking for in that tangible or created thing or person. 3) See about responding like Jesus did, in a healthy way that will not only conquer fear but encourage you and the others who are involved.
Think about it, what if I give myself, even when I’m being disrespected and betrayed? What would happen if I remain faithful… even when my closest friends find no importance in doing so? Fraternity is a place for charity and indulgence. Jesus, then, must be our model of fraternity. We can think about and believe that charity is better than indulgence. Jesus, help us look beyond our discouragement. Help us hold fast to your consoling words in John chapters 14 through 16. Pray with 1 John 4:7-12. See how that passage can draw us deeper into an active charity.