8th Sunday After Pentecost – St Basil, Fool-for-Christ of Moscow
There is a saying from Anthony the Great which is extremely relevant to our day and age: "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'". The mindset of people, especially in this area, seems to be at odds with Christianity. How many people who live around us have a disdain and a dislike for Christianity, saying it's backwards and outdated. Many people even blame Christianity for all the problems that are going on in the world, especially the divisiveness in our country today. And as time goes on, this division will only increase and make our lives much more difficult to live.
However, not all hope is lost. We still have the teaching of the Church to guide us, even in these times. One of these Saints is the Blessed Basil, fool for Christ, who we commemorate today. Blessed Basil was born in Moscow in 1468, a time where Orthodox Christianity was the dominant faith. And yet, this Saint still led a life of persecution and of ridicule from his fellow Christians. "At age 16 the saint arrived in Moscow and began the thorny exploit of foolishness. In the burning Summer heat and in the crisp harsh frost he walked about bare-legged and bare-foot through the streets of Moscow. His actions were strange: here he would upset a stand with kalachi, and there he would spill a jug with kvas (a traditional slavic beverage). Angry merchants throttled the blessed saint, but he took the beatings with joy and he thanked God for them. But then it was discovered that the kalachi were poorly cooked, and the kvas was badly prepared. The reputation of Blessed Vasilii quickly grew: in him they perceived a fool, a man of God, a denouncer of wrong".
In a sense, the people "judged a book by it's cover". They saw a man who looked out of place and not dressed as he should be. He was not one of them, an outsider. And yet he showed them their shortcomings, their prejudices, which brought them to repentance and respect for the holy one of God.
We also see another instance where the Blessed Basil, who was a street dweller, also helped those who were in need around him. "The blessed saint first helped those, who were ashamed to ask for alms, but who were truly in need of money. There was an instance, where St. Basil gave away a rich imperial present to a foreign merchant, who had nothing at all. This merchant had not eaten for three days, but refused to seek help since he wore fine clothing".
Another story speaks of how Blessed Basil even went to the drunken and sought their repentance: "For the salvation of one's neighbors, Blessed Basil also visited the taverns, where he endeavored to bring kindness to ruined souls. Many observed that when the saint passed by a house in which they madly made merry and drank, with tears he clasped the corners of that house. They enquired of the fool what this meant, and he answered: 'Angels stand in sorrow at the house and are distressed about the sins of the people, but I with tears entreat them to pray to the Lord for the conversion of sinners'".
This Saint was looking to bring Christ even to those who had forsaken Him. He wanted them to experience the same joy that he experienced in being a Christian. Blessed Basil was living out the Gospel of Christ which proclaimed to "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you".
So let us therefore be like the Blessed Basil. Foolish for our faith and for Christanity in the eyes of those around us. But living out our Christian life to the fullest, while also desiring and seeking the repentance and conversion of those around us.
We should in no way let the foolishness of the world guide us or have us stray away from our faith. Our Jesus Christ while he was going to His passion endured all sorts of finger pointing, laughter, and ridicule. The people in the crowd viewed Christ as a fool, even though He had performed many great miracles. Even in the Gospel reading for today, we heard how 5000 men (not including the women and Children who were there are well); they all witnessed the great miracle of the multiplication of loaves. I'm sure that word spread across Israel about this great miracle. And yet, even so, they persecuted and accused Christ wrongfully. Jesus went forward in order to bring us His saving passion and opening the gates to the kingdom of heaven. Through his sacrifice we are saved.
Let us too not be tempted by the fools of our age. We should not see the foolish people of this age as our ultimate enemies. They too are in need of salvation! Remember, Christ went to His passion, not just for us, but for the whole world. Everyone is in need of a savior, especially those who have closed off their hearts to Jesus. We might be persecuted by them, but through sacrificial love their blindness might be healed.
While I was in Romania, I met with an Abbot of a monastery. He told me: "If the area you live in is faithless, then you sanctify that place! No matter where we are, we are to sanctify the place we live in." We might not think so, but it really is up to us to turn this area around. All it takes is one act of kindness, one act of selflessness to change the hearts of men.