Happy Members of a Worldwide Insane Asylum, Second Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor
January 24, 2015
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; he 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 his father. St. Francis de Sales came from a noble family in southeastern France. His father had given him a tremendous education and he graduated with his doctorate in law at the age of 20. By the time he returned home his father had already arranged for him to marry an heiress and become a senator. When Francis told him he had made a promise of chastity and wanted to become a priest, the Father was outraged thinking his son had lost his mind. A difficult struggle ensued, until the Bishop of Geneva, at the intercession of one of Francis’ maternal uncles who was a priest, obtained for Francis the appointment as second in charge of the Diocese of Geneva, which placated Francis’ father’s sense of pride. Francis was ordained a priest and took up his duties. In addition to the administrative tasks for which he was responsible, he quickly became a much sought confessor and friend of the poor. The diocese of Geneva, however, was in shambles. Decades of scandals among the clergy had made it very easy for Calvinism to spread throughout the region of the Chablais. The people were so poorly catechized that they were not able to respond to Calvinist arguments. They were, moreover, so angry at the hypocrisy of their local churchmen that they were easily incited to turn on the Catholic faith, run their priests out of town and take up a form of Christianity that at least seemed to be moral. The bishop of Geneva even had to flee the see city and take up residence in Annecy. Some reports said that there were only about 20 Catholics left in the vast region. Nine months after Francis’ ordination, the bishop held a meeting with all his priests, seeking volunteers to send to the region to try to win the people back. He didn’t hide the dangers or the difficulties. The people were not only ill-disposed but hostile: the first priest who had been sent had been attacked and driven from the region. None of the clergy at the meeting stepped forward for what minimally was a tough assignment, but could be a fatal one. Finally, Francis stood up and said, “If you think I am capable of undertaking the mission, tell me to go. I am ready to obey and should be happy to be chosen.” The bishop accepted the proposal, over the fierce objections of Francis’ father, who thought his son was signing up for a suicide assignment — and according to worldly logic, his father was absolutely right. At 27 years old, Francis, traveling by foot, set out to try to win back the vast geographic area. The work was rough and dangerous. For his protection, he was ordered to sleep at night in a military garrison. On two occasions, assassins ambushed him along the way, but both times, seemingly miraculously, he survived. On another occasion, he was attacked by wolves and had to spend a glacial night in a tree. But he labored on, despite having little to show for all his effort. He wrote in a letter to a friend, “We are but making a beginning. I shall go on in good courage, and I hope in God against all human hope.” Through meekness, forgiveness and the publication of many tracts, he patiently set forth Catholic teaching, charitably explaining the errors of Calvinism, and tackling head on controversial issues. To those who still harbored anger toward the clerics who committed “spiritual murder” through scandalous behavior, Francis plainly acknowledged the evil and harm done, but warned his readers not to commit “spiritual suicide,” by using those scandals as a means to cut themselves off from the sacraments and the Church. Within the span of five years, the holy “Apostle of the Chablais” had reconciled and evangelized almost the entire region.
  • Like St. Francis of Assisi and St. Francis de Sales, 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, especially on a day like today when there’s snow on the ground. 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 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, we ask the 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.”