The “Foolishness” of Faithful Catholics, Mass of Reception into Full Communion with the Catholic Church, January 20, 2018

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Church of the Holy Family, New York
Saturday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Sebastian and St. Fabian, Martyrs
Reception of Barry Steven John Paul Jackson into Full Communion with the Catholic Church
January 20, 2018
2 Sam 1:1-4.11-12.19.23-27, Ps 80, Mk 3:20-21


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


The following text guided the homily: 

It is possible when the Church celebrates a Mass on a weekday in Ordinary Time in order to receive baptized Christians into full communion with the Catholic Church to have proper readings that would focus on the Church, or on the Holy Spirit that will be received in the Sacrament of Confirmation, or other essential themes. But I have always preferred to preach on the readings of the day since we’re preparing people to live the Catholic faith day-by-day and God nourishes us every day in our journey of faith. And today, even though at first these readings might seem somewhat challenging, they contain within some very important lessons for Barry, our friend, who today becomes even more our brother in the faith.

In today’s Gospel, 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, lose our life to save it, and to follow him up close all the way. We should be clear that by worldly standards, Christ is crazy. What he asks of us is crazy. And those who follow him — from you, Barry, to all of us, to those of every generation — 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 wasn’t concerned with human respect. 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. And he calls us to be crazy with him in the same way.

Jesus’ ancestor in the flesh, King David, was crazy. We see it in today’s first reading and have been seeing it throughout the week. David was continuously hunted down by Saul to be slain for nothing other than helping Saul lead and defeat his enemies. Saul was envious. He first thought of killing him but relented at the request of his son Jonathan. Then later he was hunting him down and relented when David showed that he could have killed him when he was relieving himself in a cave but refused. He began to hunt him down once more later and David could have killed him at night, but didn’t. Saul just couldn’t stop. And after David receives word that Saul had died, David didn’t rejoice, but mourned. Mourned. He rent his garments, and wept and fasted until evening, saying, ““Alas! the glory of Israel, Saul, slain upon your heights; how can the warriors have fallen! … Women of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet and in finery, who decked your attire with ornaments of gold.” He remembered Saul’s great triumphs for Israel, rather than Saul’s personal animosity. That’s crazy! David would do the same after his son Absolom turned on him and sought his death so that he could become King. His 28th generation grandson would do the same, praying for his persecutors, loving them to the end, on Calvary. Jesus’ standards are crazy in comparison to the world, but he wants us to love like David, to love like he himself loves us.

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.” We can think of Saint Clare who followed him. We can think of St. Anthony of the Desert whom we celebrated earlier this week, St. Marianne Cope whom we’ll celebrate on Tuesday or St. Francis de Sales whom we’ll remember on Wednesday.

The martyrs, like the two we celebrate today, are classic examples of those who were “crazy” for Christ. Pope St. Fabian stayed in Rome to strengthen his brothers and sisters when he was on the emperor Decius’ most wanted list. St. Sebastian was a Roman soldier who came to Rome in order to care for the Christians preparing to be martyred. Eventually he gave himself away as a Christian himself and was pierced by scores of arrows and left for dead. When the Christians took his body to bury it, they realized he was still breathing and nursed him back to life. But when he had sufficiently recovered, rather than flee, he went to a staircase where he knew the emperor would pass and accosted him. The emperor was at first stunned, listening to a man seemingly returned from death. But they he ordered him to be beaten to death. Saints Fabian and Sebastian and all the other martyrs were capable of the courage they showed because they believed with all their heart in the “crazy” idea that life in this world wasn’t everything and that just as Jesus was raised from the death on the third day so they, who gave witness to him in their time of trial, would reign with him forever.

It’s important for us all to recognize that the path of sanctity is the path of being accounted a fool for Christ, staking our entire life not on earthly securities but on his call and promises. To be a faithful Catholic today, to follow our vocation to holiness or our vocation within a vocation, is something that the world doesn’t understand and many mock. Many think we’re crazy for still coming to Church at all after the scandals, to entrust ourselves to the Church Jesus founded on such limited pillars like the apostles and their successors throughout the generations and believing the Holy Spirit will guide it to all the truth and prevent it from ever erring on matters of salvation. Many think we’re out of our mind for believing in the Sacraments, that priests have God’s authority to forgive sins in his name, that when one has consecrated olive oil and balsam (sacred chrism) placed on one’s head with the words “Be sealed with the Holy Spirit,” that the same Holy Spirit who descended on Pentecost comes upon a person, that God seals a man and a woman in an indissoluble bond in marriage or consecrates a man to himself in Holy Orders. Many think we’re crazy for believing the Church’s teachings on abortion, or extramarital sex, or forgiving 70 times 7 times.  Those who make their faith a priority are often called by family members a “fanatic.” But God wants us 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 truly 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 insane.

Barry, we rejoice that you are ready to join this worldwide insane asylum. It’s a big step, one for whom so many have been praying for such a long time. Today we are offering this Mass for Mike Connell and Paula Nowakowski, two great Catholic friends of yours who have died but whose example continues to inspire you and we pray that they are experiencing the joy of God at your becoming Catholic together with him. Another Catholic who inspired you and who has been praying for you is Fr. Billy Byrne. I was in touch with him yesterday and asked if he wanted to say anything in this homily through me to you and he happily took up the opportunity. “Please tell Barry,” he said, “that I am praying for him and that this step is not a graduation but just the beginning.  God has plans as yet unimagined as to how He wants to use you, Barry, to build up the Kingdom.” If we were to know those plans, we would doubtless find them crazy! I would also like to say that in all those I’ve prepared to reception into the Catholic Church, no one has ever worked harder than you, Barry, and I’ve had a lot of hard workers. When I suggested various books in different categories encouraging you to choose one of several, you chose all of them and more. Like your work in the White House and on Capitol Hill, you have been giving it everything you have, and God has been doing even more. We rejoice at this big step you’re taking today and we look forward to sharing this continuous adventure toward the heavenly Jerusalem.

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 for you, Barry, as you enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, to enter into a communion with his holy craziness so that, like the saints, you and we with you 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 2 SM 1:1-4, 11-12, 19, 23-27

David returned from his defeat of the Amalekites
and spent two days in Ziklag.
On the third day a man came from Saul’s camp,
with his clothes torn and dirt on his head.
Going to David, he fell to the ground in homage.
David asked him, “Where do you come from?”
He replied, “I have escaped from the camp of the children of Israel.”
“Tell me what happened,” David bade him.
He answered that many of the soldiers had fled the battle
and that many of them had fallen and were dead,
among them Saul and his son Jonathan.David seized his garments and rent them,
and all the men who were with him did likewise.
They mourned and wept and fasted until evening
for Saul and his son Jonathan,
and for the soldiers of the LORD of the clans of Israel,
because they had fallen by the sword.”Alas! the glory of Israel, Saul,
slain upon your heights;
how can the warriors have fallen!

“Saul and Jonathan, beloved and cherished,
separated neither in life nor in death,
swifter than eagles, stronger than lions!
Women of Israel, weep over Saul,
who clothed you in scarlet and in finery,
who decked your attire with ornaments of gold.

“How can the warriors have fallen–
in the thick of the battle,
slain upon your heights!

“I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother!
most dear have you been to me;
more precious have I held love for you than love for women.

“How can the warriors have fallen,
the weapons of war have perished!”

Responsorial Psalm PS 80:2-3, 5-7

R. (4b) Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
O guide of the flock of Joseph!
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim, Benjamin and Manasseh.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.
R. Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.
O LORD of hosts, how long will you burn with anger
while your people pray?
You have fed them with the bread of tears
and given them tears to drink in ample measure.
You have left us to be fought over by our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.
R. Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.

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.”