I am staring at the Exodus 90 kit (if you don’t know what Exodus 90 is, click here). The 90 days of living the dream haven’t started for me yet but will be here before I know it. Prayer and fasting aren’t a new concept for me, but the rigor and length of Exodus 90 are a more intense take on it. I might be crazy, but I am looking forward to starting and at the same time not. My lack of excitement rests in the fact that it will be “hard”. And that is precisely why I am excited to do it, and why I am excited to see hundreds of men doing it. Men need to be living asceticism, and here is one reason why.
In a previous post, I mentioned that each man is called to “shamar”, the Hebrew word for guarding and protecting. Our duty to initiate, bear responsibility and defend the true, beautiful and good takes strength. Herein lies the problem with men these days – we are too soft. From skinny jeans to video games to the couch, we men resemble Gumby more than St. Joseph. This is where mortification comes in.
A tendency of ours is to gravitate to comfort, like a moth to light. Couple that with another tendency of many men towards laziness, and you have the recipe for softness (or weakness, or no backbone, or simply the inability to do much that takes effort and willpower). When the masculine culture reflects this state, we see fewer men taking responsibility, initiating much of anything. Most significantly, we are left with a void in leadership in society – leaders that are willing to take a hit for the sake of that which is true and good and beautiful.
Incorporating a life of asceticism is one way to begin to train ourselves. As St. Paul said, “So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.” As men, we cannot allow ourselves to become debtors to the flesh…aka slaves. When we do this, we dampen our ability to live in real strength because we enslave our will to the whim of our passions.
I was briefly a college athlete. Training is a non-negotiable for growth and progress. The same holds true of our will. If we don’t train it, it governs us. We become tepid, timid and ruled by comfort.
If we do not practice these small sacrifices, how will we ever lay down our life for our friends? How will we become effective guardians of the true, the good and the beautiful? How will we engage our world and pierce it with the Gospel? Our passions are meant to serve us, not dominate us.
Exodus 90, let’s do this.
Where there is no great mortification there is no great sanctity. St. Philip Neri
He who allows himself to be ruled or guided by the lower and animal part of his nature, deserves to be called a beast rather than a man. St. Vincent de Paul
Mortification is the season of our life. And the best mortification is that which overcomes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life in little things throughout the day. Ours should be mortifications that do not mortify others, and which give us more finesse, more understanding and more openness in our dealings with everybody. You are not mortified, if you are touchy; if your every thought is for yourself; if you humiliate others; if you don’t know how to give us what is unnecessary and, at times, what is necessary; if you become gloomy because things don’t turn out the way you had hoped. On the other hand, you can be sure you are mortified, if you know how to make yourself “all things to all men, in order to save all.” St. Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing By.