November 17, 2009
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, religious
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."
Introductory Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are the Alpha and the Omega. You have given me life and offer me eternal life with you. You deserve my honor, gratitude and love, and yet you never impose yourself upon me. Thank you for respecting my freedom so that I can offer myself to you. All that I have is yours; I return it to you.
Petition: Lord, increase my faith.
1. Zacchaeus up a Tree
Yesterday and today’s Gospel passages speak eloquently of the need to encounter Christ at all costs. The blind man we read about yesterday would not stop shouting until he was brought to the Lord. Today a short and very unpopular man named Zacchaeus runs back and forth among the crowd until finally, in his determination to encounter Christ, he breaks all protocol and scrambles up a tree. Jesus wastes no time in entering decisively this tax collector’s life and transforming it. This resembles our own encounter with Christ. At times different obstacles stand in our way and prevent us from seeing Our Lord and his action in our lives. Above all we lack determination. How easy it is to craft excuses: “I am just too short,” “Maybe Jesus is too busy,” “I am just a sinner.” If we really want Our Lord to stay at our house, he will, but there may be trees that we need to climb first.
2. Welcoming Jesus
Few people ever welcomed Jesus with the joy and exuberance as did this little man. He came down from the tree, gave half of his wealth to the poor, and promised to restore any fraudulent transactions four times over. Zacchaeus has truly been like that merchant in search of fine pearls (see Matthew 13:45-46). He is willing to sell all he has to buy the pearl of great price: friendship and intimacy with the Lord. How many times has Jesus looked up at us and asked us to remain with him? How many times have we had the immense grace of receiving the King of kings into our hearts in the Blessed Eucharist? Do we offer merely a corner of our hearts for him or do we reserve the presidential suite? How pure do we maintain our souls for our Guest?
3. Of Sinners and Saints
What makes someone a saint and someone else a sinner? Certainly it is not the grumbling of the jealous crowd who are unwilling to climb up the tree to see Jesus yet are quick to criticize anyone who does. In fact, everyone is a sinner. St. Paul writes, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). Yet St. Paul, Zacchaeus, you and I all go from being sinners to saints when we encounter Christ and are faithful to his friendship. Salvation came to Zacchaeus’ house when Jesus entered it, and salvation comes to us through the graces received at baptism, renewed in the Sacrament of Penance, and nurtured in the Eucharist.
Conversation with Christ: Jesus, help me to be willing to do whatever it takes to grow in a deeper friendship with you. Don’t allow me to worry about the murmurings of the crowd, but only to listen to your voice and respond to it with generosity.
Resolution: I will make a point to go to confession at the next possible opportunity asking Jesus to forgive me my sins and to help me to turn from being a sinner into being a saint. I will make it a real encounter with Jesus.
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