Upon reflecting on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, I recalled a homily I heard at Mass which I thought was particularly relevant especially to those men that are going to be participating in upcoming Exodus 90 to end on Easter. After completing Exodus 90 myself, the meaning of this solemnity made more sense to me. Mary was immaculately conceived; therefore she was completely preserved from the state of sin. Since she was spared that burden, she had nothing in the way of hearing what God was telling her. She had no distractions, anxieties, fears, or addictions that was tearing away at her soul. She had no earthly desires or lusts that shielded what God’s message was to her. We should all want that.
I am not saying that her life was easy. She certainly had her sorrows to bear, as Simeon told her in the temple at Jesus’ presentation, “you yourself a sword will pierce” (Luke 2:35). Nevertheless, by her “yes”, we all have a chance at salvation. She became the Mother of God and made the Word incarnate. We will never attain this kind of perfection in this life. However, if we persevere to the end, we may be able to behold the beatific vision with the Saints in heaven. In the meantime, we have a choice to make. We can remain comfortable in our current state – lukewarm in faith and works, just “showing up” in our marriage, remaining passive as stewards of what God has given us. On the other hand, we can choose to get over ourselves, become humbler, more intentional, and just in marriage and family life. The latter, my brothers, is not natural for us. Indeed, this requires a supernatural effort.
Men, we need to declutter our lives and souls in order to hear what God is saying to us in our life. This is why an exercise like Exodus 90 is so important. By its rigorous standards we initially suffer, yes, but through this suffering we see what truly matters. When the comforts of the world are taken away, not only do we start to appreciate what we have, but we also are more thankful for what we have and naturally give more thanks to God for what we have. We see how much of life we were simply throwing away. We start to see the mindless activities that were important to us and realize what really needs to be more important to us. We can finally start to hear what God is trying to say to us.
So where do you start? Where do you go if you want this but, you tell yourself, “There have been so many years of sin, I wouldn’t even know where to begin.” This first step is arguably the most difficult however probably the most essential. Actually, I do not think any of this would be possible without doing this first – it’s time to grow up and confess your sins like a man. Yes, the wonderful gift that God has given His Church in the sacrament of reconciliation. This is an absolute must in order to start to clear out your soul and it is something you can return to multiple times and use frequently. Complimentary to confession is the daily examination of conscience. This will help keeping you on track day to day. Even though the Church requires Catholics to go to confession merely once a year, I would argue it should be done at least once a month. It should be done more regularly also because the Church teaches that one must be in a state of grace before receiving Holy Communion at Mass. Moreover, according to St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, those that eat the bread unworthily bring condemnation on themselves. With this in mind, in most parishes in the US, the lines for Holy Communion are way longer that the lines for confession. This tool available to us in the arsenal of spiritual warfare is invaluable.
God has not chosen any of us to be immaculately conceived. We are given free will and we are called to make a choice. As John Eldredge says in Wild at Heart, as men “we were made to come through.” Only through the stripping down of our world and the subsequent opening of our heart will God’s presence be apparent to us. Only then we will be able to hear His Word.