My priest recently gave a homily on St. Basil the Fool for Christ, and it reminded me of someone I know.
St. Basil used to call people out. He’d publicly reveal sins he had no way of knowing; he’d expose wrong reasons for giving. He used to upset merchants by knocking over stands, spilling jugs, only to find out later that they’d been prepared improperly. He gave money to those no one knew were in need because they were too embarrassed to ask for help. Imagine how that looked–giving money to someone in fine clothing!
The fact is, St. Basil might have looked very strange, but there was always a reason for what he did. Perhaps hidden, but always a reason. Once those reasons were exposed, he became highly revered and deeply beloved, and the famous church in Moscow is named for him (photo).
Sometimes, autism creates awkward moments. Sometimes our autistic loved ones don’t make much sense because we can’t see what they see. But let me tell you something that really, really matters:
The hearts that receive my little “holy fool.”
I suppose the hearts in our parish who receive him have the option to receive him in pride and anger and selfishness. They don’t. But I know a lot of special needs families who suffer at those hands, and it has tremendous power to drive a family away from church, and from Christ altogether.
So let’s look to the perfect example. A beautifully humble heart–one that received the craziest message of all time with all softness and holiness.
Now in the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God…And coming in he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26a, 28-38
What idea could possibly have appeared more foolish? Yet she only humbly exposed her lack of understanding and asked for clarity. She didn’t say, you know? My life is so screwed. She didn’t patronize the angel with an “okay, honey, sure.” She knew there was a whole story she didn’t know yet, and submitted herself to His best plan, even though it just looked maybe kinda mean for this angel to impose on her a plan that involved her being a single, pregnant teenager.
Imagine if we had such humility. Imagine if the merchants whose carts were overturned by St. Basil had such humility. Rather, they beat him and insulted him, which he endured with patience. In his humility, he did not drive others away from Christ, but drew others to Christ.
And in her humility, she drew all to Christ. Glory to God!
A blessed Feast of the Annunciation to you.