Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Genesis 3:9-15
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 130:1-8
Second Reading: St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Corinthians 4:13-5:1
Gospel: According to St. Mark 3:20-35
Whenever the topic of Myles Connelly’s novella Mr. Blue would come up in conversation the late, great Jim Skerl ’74 would invariably break into the background vocals of the 1959 hit song of the same name by The Fleetwoods. For as long as I shall live I will not be able to think of this book without hearing Jim’s voice in my head. I am forever grateful to Jim for introducing me to this oft-overlooked gem of Catholic literature, and a copy of Mr. Blue sits on the bookcase in the bedroom of my late son Kevin ’07, a gift from his confirmation sponsor Jim Skerl.
The main character of this little work is Mr. J. Blue, a man who is admired by the narrator of the story, yet this unnamed friend thinks that Mr. Blue is in some ways “out of his mind.” According to this friend – and many readers of the story, the problem with Mr. Blue is that he takes his Catholicism way too seriously. Blue tries to live like Jesus, and at one point in the story he has even given away $2 million (which would be worth a whopping $23 million today). For a man who does odd jobs and lives in a tent on the roof of a building it seems that to disburse oneself of that much money is worse than crazy, especially in the mind of the story’s level-headed businessman narrator.
The hero of and inspiration for Mr. J. Blue was also seen as a bit crazy and impractical. In this weekend’s Gospel reading from St. Mark we hear that the relatives of the Lord, after getting word of the huge crowds that followed Him, agreed with the scribes who felt that there was something very wrong with this man Jesus.
Those whose Christian commitment is tempered by a desire to be accepted, to remain inconspicuous in a crowd, are not the type of people who would like to spend a lot of time with either Mr. Blue or Jesus. Words like ‘quirky’ or ‘unconventional’ or ‘eccentric’ are not adjectives that positively describe those in the mainstream of our society. One can almost hear the relatives of Jesus wondering what they are going to do about Him if He continues to embarrass them by His behavior.
Seemingly, the last thing on their minds is imitating Him, activity that would invariably bring unwanted attention upon themselves – attention that might make others think that they too are out of their minds. Mr. Blue had no such qualms. He even walked away from the comfort of his rooftop tent to live with the poorest of the poor. His goal was to create a group of like-minded folk – called the “Spies of God” – whose job would be to bring the love of God to the hearts of those with whom they come in contact.
Throughout the history of our Faith there have been non-fictional characters whose primary – possibly their sole – desire has been to do the will of the Father by following the path laid out by Jesus. They are people like St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Damien of Molokai, Servant of God Dorothy Day. These three, and others like them, were seen by many to be a bit crazy, and they were certainly not part of the mainstream of “in and of this world” Catholicism. Yet their witness, like that of the fictional Mr. J. Blue, made them truly happy people – a real contrast to the mass of humanity who are not considered to be out of their minds.