The Little Man in a Tree
October 30, 2016 (readings)
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Father Steven Reilly, LC
Luke 19: 1-10
He 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: Oh God, thank you for allowing me to come into your presence. Your love enlarges my soul. I long to see your face! I come to this prayer with a thirst to just be in your presence, relax under your loving gaze. May my presence here be an expression of my love for you.
Petition: Lord, help me to overcome obstacles in my spiritual life.
1. Climbing Trees: What a sight it must have been — that rotund, little figure scampering up the tree. The astonished onlookers must have guffawed and whistled at the chief tax collector tossing his dignity to the winds as he huffed and puffed getting up that sycamore. Zacchaeus was nothing if not persistent. He was used to overcoming obstacles as he fleeced the tax payers of Jericho. But now his worldly skills were directed in a far different way: He wanted to see Jesus! If only we showed half as much persistence in pursuing our spiritual goals as we do our secular ones. When we really, really want something, we can push, pull and tug to make sure that we get over, around or under the obstacle that impedes our desires. But when it’s a question of our prayer life, something as simple as a change in schedule can seem insurmountable. Let’s yearn to see Christ! If we truly long for his love, we will even climb trees to get it!
2. Called by Name: When the people looked at Zacchaeus in the tree, they saw a hated enemy, to be laughed at with scorn. When Jesus looked at Zacchaeus in the tree, he saw a soul with potential, to be called with love. Jesus’ ability to read hearts enabled him to see the whole picture of Zacchaeus. Yes, money had been his driving motivation, but there was an openness in his heart that would be good soil for the seed. Jesus invited himself over for dinner; Zacchaeus would have never imagined doing it himself. The Lord was not embarrassed by Zacchaeus, and like the privileged souls of his closest disciples, he called him by name. He wants to call us, too!
3. Christ’s Credibility: The people began to grumble about Jesus — how could he spend time with such a sinner? His credibility is put to the test. Zacchaeus’ response is proof to others that the way of righteousness proclaimed by Jesus is true and real. Jesus cured lepers, made the cripple walk and even raised the dead, but the dramatic conversions of great sinners must have been the most astounding of his miracles. It was harder NOT to believe Jesus in the face of such evidence. As Catholics, we have to be proof, too, of the credibility of Christ working through the Church. When our lives shine with charity and self-denial, we are living proof that the graces received through the Eucharist (and all the other sacraments and blessings we have as Catholics) are real.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, what joy you received through Zacchaeus’ conversion. He responded fully to your grace. At times, I can drag my feet even when I feel you calling me to another step forward in my spiritual life. Help me to be generous, so that other souls will see how wonderful it is to follow you!
Resolution: I will strive to overcome all obstacles to my prayer life today.
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