Last Wednesday was April Fool’s Day. Many people enter into the spirit of the day by springing practical jokes and hoaxes upon family members, friends and co-workers.
In 1998, Burger King put an ad in the newspaper announcing that Whopper hamburgers were available for left-handed people so that the condiments would drip out of the other side of the sandwich. The company reported that some customers ordered these burgers and others specifically asked for the original recipe.
April Fool’s Day!
But another April Fool’s Day will be here soon. We call it Good Friday, and it is celebrated by all those who are “fools for Christ’s sake.” In his preaching, Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was at hand. And so after his arrest and punishment, he was hailed by the guards as “king of the Jews,” and a crude sign with the same title was placed over his head, crowned with thorns, on the cross.
What a fool! The King of Fools!
Just as foolish were all those who thought he could make a difference for them, even force the Romans out of Israel. So, disappointed, even ashamed of their own foolishness and overcome with fear, most ran away. One of them, Judas, was the one who helped set up the trap to arrest him. Another, Peter, one of his closest disciples who said he would follow him anywhere, denied he even knew him — three times.
All of us who follow Jesus are fools, and certainly in our own times, many people believe ever more strongly that we are even stupid and gullible. St. Paul emphasized this, noting that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1, 18).
Yes, there have been many true believers over the centuries who manifested the foolishness of God by renouncing human wisdom and power — someone like St. Francis of Assisi comes to mind.
But we have many of them in our own communities. Self-sacrifice is always foolishness to a certain worldview. It’s what parents and churches try to teach us, but few of us really want to learn. It’s what married couples promise to each other — “to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health; to love you and honor you all the days of my life” — but so many find almost impossible to fulfill.
Perhaps a playground pet show in New York gives us a moral for our times. The pet show chose a duck as its “happiest pet.” Then, quicker than you can say Bernard Madoff, the happy duck gobbled up its fellow contestants — a frog, two worms and a cricket.
Sometimes, our happiness and a meaningful life come at the expense of others. God has given us another way — Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life.
The Rev. Bernie Quinn is minister of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Sermon notes is a column by ministers of the Patterson Ministerial Association.