Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop and Doctor

The gospel reading for today is amazingly brief, yet also amazingly apt for today. We have a grand total of three sentences, where we are told that 1) Jesus went into a house; 2) a huge number of people followed Jesus into the house; and 3) because of the first two statements, Jesus’ family thought He was “out of his mind.” Presumably, it was more than just having a large following which concerned Jesus’ family, but also things like the preaching and lifestyle which attracted the following to begin with. Because some things never change, today’s saint had a similar problem. When Francis de Sales tried to show God’s mercy above all else to the people in his diocese (Catholic and non-Catholic alike), even those close to him expressed concern.

Mercy is a difficult concept, both to understand and to live out. Ultimately, mercy is not a matter of saying “what you have done doesn’t matter” or “your actions have no consequences,” but saying to another “your actions mean something and have consequences, but you can’t handle the consequences yourself, so I’m going to help you as much as it takes.” We can seem crazy for showing mercy, because it looks like we are throwing fair play out the window. But every one of us has helped a friend sort through a problem, and helped the friend bear the burden of the problem. God’s mercy is just a matter of God saying “everyone is my friend, so I will do this for anyone.” One does not have to look long in the newspaper to find evil in the world, and people in need of mercy. The question is whether, like Francis de Sales, we are willing to show that mercy indiscriminately, even though the world says what it said first of Jesus, “he is out of his mind.”

January 24th, 2015