Brothers and sisters: If only you would put up with a little foolishness from me!
That’s Saint Paul talking, in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11. But when I read it this afternoon, it reminded me of … me. You know that is unusual; I don’t often identify with Saint Paul, for many reasons. But admitting a certain foolishness strikes me as something I can share with him.
First of all, I have to admit that the awesome dignity of the Sacred Priesthood, the marvelous solemnity of the Holy Liturgy of the Church, and the tremendous respect offered to me freely and willingly by so many people often hide from us how foolish we all look, and especially me, because of the very foundational elements of our faith. We believe in, talk to, sing to, and pray to an invisible God. We profess that his only Son took flesh in the womb of a virgin in a small village two millennia ago, was born, worked many miracles which nobody has any photographs of, then was killed like a criminal. But then – and get this – we assert that he rose from the dead, went about eating, drinking, and talking, then ascended into heaven!
Some folks, like the throng that heard Paul preach in the Areopagus of Athens, hear that last bit about “resurrection from the dead” and suddenly remember they have to go sort their sock drawers. It sounds so…foolish to them.
Unlike ancient Greece, now everybody has heard already all about it; indeed, they have heard the stories a million times. But to think that there is any truth, any reality to them – well, that just isn’t educated, it’s not sophisticated, it’s not modern. In a word, it is foolish.
Now you all know I am perfectly willing to be taken for a fool according to those criteria. I cling to the reality of all that has been handed down, undiluted, undiminished, and undiffused. It is the only thing that can bring life!
As Saint Paul also point out, we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles. (1 Cor 1:23) Folly; that’s how they saw it, and how many see it now.
Despite how seriously I take this, no, actually, because of how seriously I take this Faith, I am willing and even eager to make certain that I not be taken that seriously. That is, my own person, myself. I can be ridiculous on occasion because, well, I am NOT the Son of God, and I know that. Don’t confuse me with the Good News I bring. I am dispensable and I know it. Christ is indispensable!
This gives me great liberty. I can ally myself with Christ in the face of a public who finds that quaint, gullible, or even foolish. Simply wearing my priest-clothes in public can elicit pity or disdain. Proposing Christ’s own prescription for life to modern souls can be met with bemusement, whether that be a happy young couple preparing for marriage, or a successful professional, or, that most skeptical of all audiences, a teenager. I am willing to accept that, because without Christ, they are in mortal danger.
So you see, it’s not about me. I can – and will – be a goof. You know that by now, and if you’re still reading this, you’re okay with that. And so am I, because I am not the savior of the world, or of you. But I know who is, I am eager to help you know Him and love Him better!
So, if I strike you as being ridiculous, let me be the last one to try to dissuade you of that opinion. Rather, I acknowledge and embrace it, but beg you, with Saint Paul again: Please put up with me. For I am jealous of you with the jealousy of God. (2 Cor 11:1b-2)