I hate going to the gym.
It’s not that I don’t like working out or that it’s too far from my house. It’s not that I’m out of shape. I tend to prefer a workout that has a component of fun or an adrenaline rush involved, like mountain biking or rock climbing. But it’s the culture of a gym.
There's nothing wrong with gym workouts—many people really enjoy them and they can be excellent for strength and conditioning. The times I do enjoy it are when I’m working out with a group, and there's no competition in the air, only brotherhood. We’re working towards something together, supporting each other towards getting stronger. It becomes less about the form and the amount of weight on the bar, and more about the process of growing together.
Maybe it's because I was never really shown how to do a lot of the exercises, but when I go to the gym alone I always feel like I don't know enough, I don’t go often enough, I don’t wear the right gear or have the right supplements. I’m just never sure if I’m doing it right.
Living as a Christian man in today’s world is a difficult task, and it’s made even more difficult when we try to do it alone. We’re constantly left wondering “Am doing it right? What does this look like? Am I prioritizing the right things?”
We have plenty of worldly examples who will try and tell us what it means to be a man—even “Christain” examples! Ned Flanders is kind, Vito Corleone is loyal, and Kanye West is artistic—but they can never measure up to the examples of the saints.
So what does it look like to be a man after the heart of God?
Perhaps one of the greatest human examples of true masculinity we have is St. Joseph. He was Jesus’ adoptive father and a well-known carpenter. He was not an old man who whittled small logs and made nice dining room sets, as he is often depicted—he was young, strong, likely cutting and milling his own lumber to build homes, barns, and walls. We never hear St. Joseph actually speaks in scripture, but that’s not to say he was out of touch or emotionally unavailable. Like his ancestor King David, he was strong, powerful and decisive. Whenever God gives Joseph a command, he follows with an unwavering trust (Matthew 2:13–23). Not only was he physically strong, but he was a mentor for his foster son. Though Jesus had a perfect divine nature, Joseph mentored his son not only in the physical strength needed to be a carpenter but also in the emotional and mental strength needed to be a selfless leader. In addition to affirming his son and teaching him discipline, he was an example of silent leadership for Jesus.
Many of Jesus’ early followers were also strong, hard-working men. Andrew, Peter, James and John were all fishermen when Jesus called them to follow after Him. There were no downriggers, fish finders or trolling motors in those days—they would have had to row themselves out into the deep, throw the nets over, and then drag them up by hand.
But Jesus didn’t call them to be apostles because they were good businessmen or even good fishermen. In fact, they were likely very poor as there are several accounts (Matthew 4:21, Mark 1:19) of them mending their broken nets onshore. If they were wealthy fishermen, they would have simply gotten new nets, or had a backup set to use while the others were being repaired.
Jesus calls them to be leaders of the Church because He saw something unique in them—a willingness to be humble, to fight, to persevere, and to trust Him even when things didn’t make sense.
Ultimately, being a man after the heart of God means modelling our lives after the man who knows the Father best—His Son.
Jesus is grounded in His identity as the Son of the Father. He is unfazed by what anyone else might say about Him. He doesn’t ask us to become timid or passive in order to follow Him—He asks us to fight alongside Him for what is true, good, and beautiful. Too often, we picture Jesus as just a nice guy like Mr. Rogers. He had a tender spirit but was also a man of courage and zeal who fought for His children!
When people were defiling the temple, He flipped tables and drove them out with a whip! He had acts of bold defiance—like calling out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees or rebuking His disciples for not trusting the Father’s plan. But He also knew He needed to step back and be quiet, retreating to a high mountain or place of solitude to pray (Matthew 14:23). And He always knew when to be generous and move towards those who need healing or mercy. (Mark 5:25-34). Jesus defines masculinity because, in His relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit, He created it.
The life of a Christain man is certainly not one of complacency, mediocrity or isolation. More than anyone else, we are called to be leaders and co-labourers in the mission Christ has invited us to.
In your home, in your parish, in your job, people look to you as a leader. The Father wants to entrust His authority to you. So listen to what He is asking of you—lead that Bible study, teach your kid something new, go for that promotion, make that project, take a step back from work, pick up that instrument, go on that adventure! As Pope Benedict XVI famously put it “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness!”
We are called to put our trust in God that He will always provide for us. When He says “go”, we should go. When He says “do this”, we should do it. When He says “say this”, we should say it—even when it’s hard. Jesus lived like this, every day, abandoned to the will of His Father, and He invites us to the same. This is where we find the heart of the Father.
Lastly, the journey to the Father's heart is not meant to be walked alone. If we are going to be good men we also need to be good brothers, sons, and fathers.
Our brotherhood with each other must be rooted in sonship with the Father, which in turn will bear the fruit of our own fatherhood.
We need men around us who we can look to for advice, who have experienced things we can learn from, who can say “this is how I screwed this up and what God taught me in the process.” So find men in your parish, in your community, who can be brothers to accompany you on this journey. They can be your friends, men from your church, work, or your Thursday night dodgeball team.
Who knows, maybe you can even find them at the gym.