Becoming Out of our Mind like Jesus and the Saints, 2nd Saturday (I), January 21, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Mission of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr
January 21, 2017
Heb 9:2-3.11-14, Ps 47, Mk 3:20-21

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today Jesus’ relatives — likely his cousins from the Nazareth area — came to seize him in Capernaum because they said, “He is out of his mind.” They thought he was crazy. After all, according to worldly standards, he certainly seemed to be. He had given up a good job as a carpenter in his hometown to adopt a lifestyle in which he, by his own admission, didn’t even have a place to lay his head. Rather than being respected, he was preaching in a way that got even Pharisees and Herodians — two groups of people who were inimical to each other — to conspire together to kill him, homicidal provocations that Jesus would incite even in his hometown when his neighbors for most of his life would as a mob try to throw him off the cliff on which Nazareth had been built. And he had surrounded himself by a curious group of followers — fishermen, a loathsome tax collector, even a zealot who wanted to kick out the Romans at all costs. He had turned his back on worldly security, on personal safety, on the wisdom of most in society. His cousins thought that they needed to come to rescue him from himself.
  • Jesus is clearly crazy according to worldly standards. The world proclaims that to be happy you need to be rich; Jesus says you need to be poor in spirit. The world says you need to be strong and finish fights others begin; Jesus says you need to be meek and a peacemaker. The world says you need to be sexy and sexually active lest you shrivel up and die; Jesus says you need to be pure of heart. The world dictates you need to be the life of the party; Jesus says you need to mourn. The world says you can’t have a care in the world; Jesus says you need to be starving for holiness. The world says you need to be popular, liked and admired; Jesus says you need to be reviled and persecuted. Jesus clearly is crazy. He’ll go on to say that we need to turn the other cheek, to pray for our persecutors, to love even our enemies, to deny ourselves, pick up our Cross each day to Crucifixion, and to follow him. We should be clear that by worldly standards, Christ is crazy. What he asks of us is crazy. And those who follow him are called to be “fools for Christ” (1 Cor 4:10). Real Catholics, according to worldly standards, are part of a world-wide insane asylum. We believe, after all, that here at Mass we consume not bread and wine but God himself under the appearance of bread and wine. We believe that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. We believe that we’re more related to each other by baptism than identical twins are by genes.
  • What’s the source of Jesus’ insanity? It’s contained in the Greek expression that is translated “out of his mind.” It means “out of himself,” out of “his wits.” It means that Jesus wasn’t concerned fundamentally with self-preservation. He was concerned fundamentally with his Father’s glory and our salvation. He lived, he thought, he acted for the Father and for others. He lived outside of himself. The Letter to the Hebrews, focusing on Jesus’ high priesthood, makes this point today, saying, “through the eternal [Holy] Spirit he offered himself unblemished to God.” His whole existence was this unblemished self-offering, giving his life to save ours and to please his Father. And that Jesus who lived that way turns to each of us and says, “Follow me!”
  • The saints are the ones who have, and they have likewise often been considered crazy. We can think of St. Francis of Assisi, whose father thought he had lost his mind seeking to live wedded to Lady Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, to take the Gospel literally, to sell fabrics in order to rebuild a dilapidated Church, to kiss lepers. When his father accused him before Bishop Guido of selling the father’s rich fabrics for the Church, Francis copped to doing so but then admitted that the very clothes he was wearing came likewise from his father’s generosity, and so he stripped naked, returned the clothes to his father, and said he was now able to depend fully on the providence of “Our Father, who art in heaven.”
  • The saint we celebrate today was likewise considered crazy by those around her. When St. Agnes was 13, she was accused of being a Christian because she was living chastely and refusing the advances of a rich and well-connected suitor. Chastity remains today something that many think is crazy, but it’s a consequence of our loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, strength and body. Agnes was tried and sentenced to be violated, but none of the threats got her to succumb. God by various means protected her. Eventually she was beheaded after a valiant martyrdom in an act that people of her age couldn’t fathom. St. Ambrose would write about her later in his Treatise on Virginity that virginity is praiseworthy not because it is found in martyrs but because it makes martyrs. Her chaste love for the Lord in little things became the school of the training in courage that allowed her to remain faithful in love of the Lord and others while under the threat of torture and death.
  • Like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Agnes, many of us will also suffer from family members and others thinking we’re crazy. They’ll think we’re crazy for taking our faith more seriously than their lukewarm standards. They’ll think we’re crazy for coming to Mass every day. They’ll think we’re crazy for coming to Bible Study, for praying every day, for prioritizing other’s needs over our own, for looking out for others more than for “number one.” They’ll think we’re crazy for going to confession. They’ll think we’re crazy for still coming to Church at all after the scandals. They’ll think we’re crazy for believing and living by the Church’s teachings on abortion, or extramarital sex, or forgiving 70 times 7 times. So many men who enter the seminary are immediately dubbed “Father What-a-Waste,” because they leave behind what could be lucrative careers and big families in the world to serve God and the Church. So many young women who enter the convent are told, not just by secularists but so-called Catholic family members that they’re “throwing their life away.” Those who make their faith a priority are often called by family members a “fanatic.” But we need to be ready for this. Just as Jesus was thought to be out of his mind, so every disciple will be likewise maligned. But we have to realize that the wisdom of this world is not God’s wisdom and we seek to live in the real, real world. Those who do are the true sane ones. And those who don’t live in God’s world, who don’t see things the way they really are, are going to be the ones who forever will recognize that they were the insane ones.
  • The summit of Christian “insanity” is the Cross. St. Paul pointed it out to the early Church when he said, “Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish?  For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith. For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:19-24). The Cross is the greatest contradiction of worldly wisdom and the greatest manifestation of divine wisdom of love. As we prepare now to receive the Fruit of the new Tree of Life which is that Cross of wisdom — in the most “insane” act of all, believing that what seems to be mere bread and wine will be totally changed into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Son of God, through whom everything was made, who was born of the Virgin, Died on Calvary, and walked out of the Empty Tomb on the Third Day — we ask that Eucharistic Lord for the grace to enter into a communion with his holy craziness so that, like the saints, we might live out of our minds, out of ourselves, just as he did, for the Father’s glory and for the salvation of the world.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Heb 9:2-3, 11-14

A tabernacle was constructed, the outer one,
in which were the lampstand, the table, and the bread of offering;
this is called the Holy Place.
Behind the second veil was the tabernacle called the Holy of Holies.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be,
passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by hands,
that is, not belonging to this creation,
he entered once for all into the sanctuary,
not with the blood of goats and calves but with his own Blood,
thus obtaining eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer’s ashes
can sanctify those who are defiled
so that their flesh is cleansed,
how much more will the Blood of Christ,
who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R. (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
For king of all the earth is God:
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

Alleluia See Acts 16:14b

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Open our hearts, O Lord,
to listen to the words of your Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 3:20-21

Jesus came with his disciples into the house.
Again the crowd gathered,
making it impossible for them even to eat.
When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him,
for they said, “He is out of his mind.”