21 January 2012

On following a crazy person. . .

St. Agnes
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

So, Jesus' family thinks he's crazy, “out of his mind.” We can see why they might think that. He running around the country doing things that only a prophet can claim to do: healing people, casting out demons, forgiving sins. He argues with respectable religious folks, claiming to have the authority to re-interpret scripture. He's got this gang of twelve hanging around with him, his disciples, men who once had decent jobs and families. And occasionally he runs off into the desert to be alone with God. Add all these to the fact that everywhere he goes a mob follows along, clamoring for his attention, and we can see why a normal, working family might think that Jesus is out of his mind. Of course, if they knew that he planned to reveal himself in the not too distant future as the Son of God, the Messiah, they might've decided to lock him up for good! If Jesus' relatives think that he's crazy, what must they think of those who follow him? How crazy do you have to be to follow a crazy man? Given what we know about Jesus' promises to his followers, you'd have to be pretty crazy. Well, brothers and sisters, dear followers of Christ, welcome to the looney bin! Do you feel like you're “out of your mind”? Do you think you're crazy for following a man who claims to be the Son of God, the savior of all creation? 

Let's review the promises made by Christ to those crazy enough to follow him. He promises us persecution at the hands of our family and friends. He promises trial and imprisonment by governors and princes. He promises ridicule, opposition, and outright violence for his name's sake. He tells us that his Way is straight but exceedingly narrow, difficult to navigate at times but clearly plotted and mapped out. Along the Way, he promises us battle after battle in a war he has already won. We have before us a long, hard struggle against an Enemy who cheats, steals, lies and has no moral qualms about using whatever he needs to ensnare us. Finally, he tells us that to follow him with our whole hearts and minds and bodies, we must follow him all the way to the Cross and the Tomb. That's a promise too. Given all these promises, we would have to be out of our minds to even think of crowding around this guy and begging him for his help.

And yet, here we are. Why? Why are we here this morning? Why do we follow around a man whose own family thought he was out of his mind? All those promises of pain, loss, tribulation were not made to warn us off, to keep us away. They aren't predictions or punishments. Jesus' promises to us are the consequences of living in the world while not being of the world. IF you follow me, THEN you will be persecuted. It must happen b/c the world cannot abide its own imperfection and those seeking perfection in Christ are irritating reminders that there are more and better ways of being human, more and better means of being perfect. The world accuses: how dare you point out my diseases and disabilities by seeking a way to have your own healed? There's nothing wrong with me, do not tempt me to believe otherwise by pointing out your own faults and how you've come to have them mended! For all the suffering we are promised as a consequence of following Christ, there is one promise that balances the scales: we will be made perfect in the Father's love. In fact, even as we seek that perfection now, we abide in His love. We may be out of our minds for following a crazy man, but we follow him into an audience with the Father to see him face-to-face. Let us see your face, Lord, and we shall be saved.

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