On Being a Fool for Christ

The Gospel from Saturday’s Mass is a stark and brief one: 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.”  (Mark 3:20-21) Many different explanations exist about this obtuse little Gospel.

Of course one theory is just to take it at face value: some in Jesus own family thought he was crazy.  I celebrated Mass with the Sisters this morning and speaking with them after Mass most of us could think of at least one family member who thought we were crazy for entering religious life or the priesthood: “You’re throwing your life away! You’re crazy! What a fool!”

Ah, to be a fool for Christ! Now that is a wise thing indeed. But it is so daring and frightening that few even among priests and religious get there. To be a fool for Christ is to be mock, scorned and hated by this world, to be the butt of jokes, to be held in derision. Yet how many of any of us are willing to accept this? We have such a powerful instinct to fit in, be liked, be approved by men. The martyrs of the early Church accepted death for proclaiming and living Christ but we can barely endure a raised eyebrow! Maybe it is ambition that keeps us from the goal. Maybe it is an overly developed wish to live in peace with the world. Maybe it is fear or maybe it is just plain laziness. But few of us Christians can bear the notion of really being thought a fool by this world and so we desperately strive to fit in.

But St. Paul is clear:

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”So then, no more boasting about men! (1 Cor 3:18-21).

I am in a year-long process of preparing my parish for an Evangelization outreach. One of the things I tell them repeatedly is that if you evangelize, expect to get it with both barrels. Expect to be scorned, rebuffed and ignored. Expect your children and grandchildren to roll their eyes and say, “There you go again.!”  Expect a fallen away member of the family to ridicule you and recite your own past sins. Evangelizing is hard. Sometimes the fruits seem lacking despite repeated attempts. And it is often our own family members that grieve us most. But all of this is just fine. We have to remember that in spite of negative reactions we haven’t done anything wrong. We often think, probably from childhood, that when some one is angry at us we have done something wrong. Not necessarily. Sometimes it means we have done something right. A doctor often causes pain and discomfort in order to bring healing and so it is that the Word of God is sharper that any two edged sword. Sometimes people are angry and “hurt” because we have done something precisely right. The protest of pain often precedes the healing that follows.

But in the end, the biggest obstacle to evangelization is our fragile ego. We are often so afraid to incite a negative reaction, to incur another’s wrath or even worse, ridicule. Perhaps we will be asked a question we cannot answer or the other person will “out maneuver” us with Bible quotes and “win” the argument. Perhaps a fallen away family member will succeed in embarrassing us about our past sins. Perhaps it is just too painful to be told “no” again by a spouse or child who refuses to go to Church. Perhaps we will end up feeling like a fool.

And there it is, that word again: fool! Are you and I willing to be made a fool for Christ’s sake? Are we willing to risk ridicule and failure in order to announce Jesus Christ? The world has gone mad and the Gospel is “out of season.” More than ever the Lord needs a few fools to risk ridicule and hatred to proclaim his gospel to a hostile world that often thinks it is a foolish doctrine that is hopelessly out of touch.

It is said that among some of the Monks of the Orthodox Church it is common to place upon their tombstone the phrase: “Fool for Christ” Not bad. I pray that I will increasingly live a life worthy of the title. And if I do, kindly grant me the favor of inscribing on MY tombstone: “Fool for Christ.”

Here’s a little video showing forth Christ as “fool.”  After this discourse the cry went up, “How can anyone take him seriously!” (Jn 6:60)

19 Replies to “On Being a Fool for Christ”

  1. I find I feel a fool whenever i go to confession, and since my return it has been at least once a month. I find I feel a fool, that I think God will protect me in my career, or that I again and again turn down prospects (girls who want to date me)- believing i want him to protect me for my future wife. I’m quite proud of being a fool, of trusting god’s way. And no one ever calls me one generally, in fact, my faith and evangelization, have gained me friends, especially those of different beliefs. We both share what we believe and why, and suddenly the biggest deepest barrier is down, as i sit with a Muslim or Orthodox, or “Christian” friend or fellow, and we have both accepted the other, and as we have both learnt from the experience. I was so proud that I knew that a Muslim friend of a certain area, believed that Israel was only an occupied part of Palestine. I did not agree, but I knew it and it had a uniting effect that I understood, and when I understand other aspects. Speaking of faith and politics somehow can unite.

    Of course, being a law student I also debate by other means, without mentioning my faith, but from the other’s perspective, or other means. I am not known to lose. Oddly, whenever I am a fool for Christ, the world treats me as wise!

  2. ps I thought you’d died for a moment, was not happy, checked who wrote the article, and then noted the date of death!

    While a part of my mind may sometimes call me a fool, my intuition and my logic, always say I am wise with my actions for and by and in Christ. It is wisdom to become small, as it is foolishness to become falsely secure! We are secure in Christ, we are secure in God’s way, even if we must sacrifice everything bit by bit. God bless you, I always enjoy reading your views. Then i go and share them with a catholic relative of mine;)!

  3. Believe me Father, it is not just those in the priesthood and religious life whose families look at them weird. I am definitely the more devout one in my marriage. Whenever I say something “religious” my wife says, “you’re funny” or “you’re cute”. But I persevere and pray harder. It’s hard to endure when she says those things but I love her enough to suffer all her ridicule in the hope that someday she comes around. I know the Lord is there too. For all the comments I hear, it was my wife who offered to buy me a Rosary made out my birthstone, garnet, for my birthday. She even went and got it blessed. The faith is there, I know it. And it sounds weird, but I can feel it. I bought her a miraculous medal to wear and out of the blue she told me how the sight of it seems to comfort people. She is a veterinarian and ,lately, when she tells the people she will take care of their animal they say, ” I know you will, I see your necklace”. Every time she tells me something like that I know the Lord hears my prayers and is reaching out to her just as he did me. I could go on and on about the “signal graces” I have received but the point is, when you have Jesus in your life, yes, you will suffer ridicule and be looked at as a fool, even by those closest to you, but it’s nothing compared to his grace and mercy and knowing he is truely in your life. To this day, despite the ridicule, I will say my Rosary beside her as she reads a book and she respects that and says nothing. Maybe she knows I am praying for her. Either way, all I can do is set the example, the rest is up to the lord. God Bless you Father and thank you for your inspiration and remember we lay people are suffering right along side you.

  4. As far as evangelization, how do you defend Annulment? Where do you hold open discussions? How does your parish organize and evangelize?

    1. Anulment almost never comes up in apologetics dscussions. We are organizing four teams: prayers, walkers, talkers and cookers. The walkers walk the neighborhood in paris and knock on doors. The talkers hit the phones and call fallen away members. THe prayers pray in Church at the hour the walkers and talkers are working. THe cookers prepare the meal to be had upon the completion of the hour of evangelization. We do this in two six-week periods per year. Meanwhile there are scheduled holy hours and days of fast assigned to parish groups for the intention of the success of evangelization

  5. Yesterday I read an article in our local news about about an Oakland Athletics baseball player that was about to be called to Spring Training after a great A-Ball year.
    He called Billy Beane to tell him he was going to be a priest instead.
    I told my brother, God gave him a much better offer, the money will never be good but at least if he
    pulls a hamstring he can still say Mass!
    God bless him and all the others who put aside the world for God, and other think are crazy to do so.
    p.s. Recently on EWTN saw a talk show of a man who became a priest at age 75 years old.
    Apparently, the ‘legal limit’ is 55.
    I think the Church needs to look at older men who might have always wanted to be a priest but for one
    reason or another never did. Now they want to and are ‘cut off’ by requirements, each case should be looked upon on an individual basis but there is no reason not to start a second career for God, many all ready have retirement set up they would not be a burden on the Church but a much needed asset.

  6. Those are understandable sentiments, Tapestry, but (trying to say this delicately) the priesthood isn’t about what you want, it is about being called . . . or not. It is about emptying yourself and serving others, and if the Church, rightly or “wrongly,” says that one should serve in some way other than being a priest, then, in the spirit of the priesthood to which that person aspires, he (or she) should happily do what the Church asks.

    It is good that people should want to serve, but as we read at Mass today, there are many parts to the Body, each of which plays a vital role. To even be a pinky toe in the Body of Christ is to provide invaluable service.

  7. It is hard to be religious in the medical world, but it is also hard to be a medical person. In my work, it is acknowledged that one has a religion, but it is generally not talked about, except for the occasional Hail Mary on the way to CT Scan with an unstable patient, or praying with the families. In part, this is because my patients have so many different religions, and we really aren’t supposed to evangelize or preach at work.

    It’s hard being medical in a religious world as well. I find that I often have a hard time fitting in with other Catholics, except for a few here and there who understand my line of work, because I see and deal with a lot of which is on the news, and have to deal with it in an almost detached, compartmentalized way. People respect me when I’m in medical attire, but when I’m in street clothes it’s like I’m “just another teenager” or young adult, and I don’t dress following the latest trends, either. I’m generally speaking a pretty happy go lucky person but I’ve also seen quite a bit of reality, and how the things you might see on TV or in the news really affect the world. Of course, some people would rather hear all the superficial things, like who’s dating who and the celebrity gossip, or the football game, than carry on conversation about more serious things. This is a great post, and got me thinking, as your posts usually do.

  8. Thank-you Msgr. for all of your inspiring messages – I look forward each day to reading them. To Katherine G., hang in there. I am also in the medical field and share in our mutual frustrations. I have been blessed to become involved with Healthcare Professionals of Divine Mercy ( Stockbridge Mass.), and have prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet for those patients who are dying. As you know, many times family and friends have gathered around thier dying loved one, and listening to that “small, still voice”, I have offered to pray the Chaplet for thier loved one. In many cases only one or two are still “going to church”. But as we recite the chaplet, I can’t help but think that maybe, in a small way through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we too are evangelizing to those who are present. I will always remember what Fr.Corapi has said:… “remember God the Father is management, we are in sales.” In the end we must remember (as another wise old priest once said to me), “God will know how to find you and use you when it is necessary for His glory and for the salvations of souls”

  9. Msgr wants to live for eighty years. Yes, our life span is seventy and eighty for those who are strong. Very interesting.

  10. The Oakland baseball player going to the seminary is studying at a Norbertine facility in Orange County. May the Lord bless him with the grace of persistence!

  11. Bender,entering the religious life does not mean waiting for the call of God from heaven,a prophecy or a tongue of fire in your head as on the apostles’ on pentecost,it entails making the move first by entering the seminary school,after experiencing the life then you will know whether you are fit(called) or not.

  12. Hi there! I attend an Assembly of God church in Austin, MN and all I can say is YOU ARE RIGHT!!! This morning after praying, my heart burdened, the Holy Spirit reminded me of being a fool for Christ…I came to the computer to find the verse in the Bible and saw your comments. Thank you for following Jesus with your whole heart and pray that I might also live a life worthy…. God bless and keep you and all yours, Mary Jane Kestner

  13. Great article but I felt whoever directed that YouTube video made Jesus to be out a loud nut to be honest.

    I can see our Lord giving this discourse in a firm, slow , moderate level voice. Not loud like in this video getting in the priest’s faces.

    That’s just my opinion.

  14. I retired from the workforce 3 years ago. Since then, I have had much more time to devote to prayer, meditation and reading scripture. Once in awhile, a verse in scripture jumps out at me, which gives me the desire to search out its meaning more fully. This morning, it was 1 Corinthians 4:10 “We are fools for Christ’s sake”. My subsequent search led me to your blog. My husband, who seems to prefer believing in the theory of evolution and aliens, has taken to calling me a nun, saint or sister whenever he observes me praying, meditating or reading scripture. I found this not only hurtful, but a form of persecution. This bible verse tells me I must be doing something right in the Lord, because to my husband I am indeed being a fool for Christ. I hope and pray that God continues to bless me with the fortitude to withstand my husband’s taunts and bless my husband with faith in His Son, Jesus.

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