January 24, 2015
Saturday of week 2 in Ordinary Time
(Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop, Doctor)
Jesus Drives Us Crazy
In the midst of the Church he opened his mouth,
and the Lord filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding.
I was a teenager on “V-J Day”—“Victory over Japan Day.” The war with Japan that began on December 8, 1941, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, ended on August 15, 1945, the feast of the Assumption (both dates Japanese time). The day the news of Japan’s surrender was announced, the country went wild. People were dancing in the streets, hugging and kissing friends and strangers alike.
Today’s Gospel shows Jesus producing a reaction something like that. When he “went home” to Capernaum, word got around that the “healer” was there, “and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.” Jesus just kept preaching and healing, so much so that “when his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind.’”
It is normal that Christians should come across as a little bit nuts. We have Good News incomparably better than the ending of World War II. The Responsorial Psalm urges us to celebrate it:
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. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
We should go crazy in every liturgy. If we don’t, it isn’t because the news isn’t good enough. It is because we either don’t appreciate it, or we are too hung up to celebrate it. Or both of the above. But the bottom line is, if what we know of Jesus Christ doesn’t drive us wild with joy, we have never been evangelized.
Pope Francis wrote in The Joy of the Gospel:
1. The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew… I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy….
This is not going to happen as it should until Catholics make Mass the enthusiastic, joyful celebration it is supposed to be. The Eucharistic celebration as we have it today is neither “eucharistic” (from the Greek word for “thanksgiving”) nor a celebration. It is, at its worst, an hour of concentrated apathy during which a priest in Holy Orders trained to perform his role like a robot presides over the inactivity of an assembly of passive sheep who, although they are priests by Baptism, were trained to be unaware they have any role to perform at all.
Before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), this was not the laity’s fault. The hierarchy purposely stripped them of all active participation in the Mass in order to impress on them that Eucharist is a mystery which, like the arcane Latin of its ritualistic expression, only the clergy could understand. Clericalism combined with legalism gave us centuries of centralized regulation by an inevitable succession of control freaks in the Vatican that eventually succeeded in squelching all spontaneity in the “colonies”—which, without using the word, was the way the Curia perceived the dioceses outside of Rome. Add to this the “triumphalism” of liturgical vestments arraying presiders in robes of royalty that proclaim them to be on an entirely different level of existence than the laity—and even more so when the presiders are bishops, cardinals or popes—and you have the deadly troika of “clericalism, legalism and triumphalism” that the bishops recognized and rejected in the first session of Vatican II.
Now the hierarchy is pleading with the laity to participate at Mass. Vatican II proclaimed that “Mother Church earnestly desires all the faithful to be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy… and is their right and duty by reason of their Baptism” (Vatican II Decree on the Sacred Liturgy 14). But it may take another century or more to bring about the necessary change of mind in the laity. It has already been fifty years since the Council, and we are far from achieving it. This is the fault both of the robotic clergy, who are still programmed by legalism and clericalism, and of the uninvolved laity who don’t care either to learn or to change.
We can’t implant the Good News until people perceive us as “out of our mind” with the joy of it. If we can’t show that in Eucharist, we have to find other ways.
The martyrs were perceived as “out of their mind” because of the joy with which they risked and lost their lives. Missionaries are perceived as “out of their mind” because they leave the comfort and security of their homeland (or neighborhood) to give help to total strangers. Anyone who has “left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for the sake of the good news”—whether by taking vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience in a religious order, or by putting all these at risk by living the Gospel radically in “the ordinary circumstances of family and social life,” business and politics (Vatican II, “The Church” 31)—comes across clearly as being “out of their mind.”
The essential is to live in a way that doesn’t make sense unless we are “out of our mind” with enthusiasm for the Good News. And the point is that this comes from knowing Jesus.
So the question is, “Do I choose to let Jesus drive me crazy?”
Pray: “Lord, make me drunk with new wine!”
Practice: Keep asking what the Good News gives you to be excited about.
Discuss: What do people think is crazy in your lifestyle?