St. Anthony the Great once said “A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him, saying, ‘You are mad; you are not like us.’”
Of course, that “time” St. Anthony warned us about has been with us since our mother and father believed the insanity of the snake in the garden! And this madness, this insanity, doesn’t just exists in “those people;” it is the common temptation of each of us every day.
Before we get too confident in our own “correctness”, it might surprise you to learn that the Lord’s family in His day thought He was “beside himself” (what a lovely way to say “crazy” or “out of his mind”). They thought He was too zealous for His new ministry and message and healing. They thought He needed to be rescued.
So what motivated these family members to think this way about the Lord? Well, I’m sure they thought it was only out of concern for Jesus’ safety and well being. But often, when we dig deeper into our motivations, we discover something else. And that something else usually has more to do with our own fears and insecurities than the concern we have for someone else. The maximum commitment shown by the Lord’s willingness to serve all who came to Him looked dangerous and crazy to those whose lives didn’t quite measure up to maximum commitment themselves. The Lord’s focused life made a stark contrast to their own lives of selfishness and mediocrity.
Look at our Gospel Lesson this morning in Mark 3:13-21:
At that time, Jesus went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons: Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew and Philip and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaios, and Thaddaios, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home; and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.”
The truth is all the lives of the saints accomplish this same uncomfortable task of revelation. Story after story of the behavior of the saints seems “crazy” to us. Just take one such story of the St. Symeon the Stylite. St. Symeon lived at the top of a tall pole on a platform exposed to the elements. Other saints refused rescue from the violence from those who hated them, enduring even physical death rather than return hatred for hatred. To a world intoxicated with the delusions of “fairness” and “rights” this looks crazy. They see a Man being unjustly executed saying “Father, forgive them” and think He’s insane.
When we contrast the effort and work we put into our own lives to make our living conditions as comfortable as possible, St. Symeon’s choices seem crazy to us. The Lord’s mercy in the face of undiluted ignorance and jealousy seem impossible. But, perhaps, God gives us these stark contrasts to challenge the ease at which we set our priorities in life with little regard to our eternal lives.
What makes more sense? Pouring all our energies into a present life that will end at the grave OR giving our best energies to “laying up treasures in heaven” for a life that will never end? Put this way, it seems kind of crazy to invest all our best energies in such a temporary situation! So, in the end, who’s really the crazy one?
Today, please don’t be surprised when people call you crazy for believing in the Faith and actively practicing the faith. You are not alone. All the saints and even the Lord Himself was thought out of His mind for His focused and purposeful life. Don’t let these voices who are merely disturbed by the displayed realization that their lives lack this focus and purpose so they react by trying to pull you back to the mediocrity that comforts their conscience. Don’t do it! Dare to look crazy to a crazy world so shortsighted that they pour their life gift into a temporary world and ignore the eternal life lying at their feet! Be crazy enough to be Orthodox on Purpose!