Offers food for thought
It might be a tough love sometimes, but it’s never dehumanizing, it never attacks our dignity, it is never without hope, it is never intimidating or against our will. Jesus would really like it if His brothers and sisters, you and I, would love each other in the same way. He’d really like us to be one just as He and the Father are one, and for the world to recognize Him by our love for each other.
Our focus on today’s Gospel depends upon the way in which one word which is spoken twice, is translated. We read that Zacchaeus stood before Jesus, in response to the crowd, and strongly declared, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I (shall) give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I (shall) repay it four times over.” Although it is common to translate this sentence with a future tense meaning, strictly speaking it is a present tense verb. Theologians debate whether it ought to be understood in the present or future tense.
I like what we can learn from the story, if we consider that Zacchaeus was already a 'Son of Abraham'. It leads to a much deeper meaning with greater connections to the rest of the Gospel, but especially the end of chapter 18 and the beginning of 19. Zacchaeus is definitely a rich man and works as a tax collector, which doesn't automatically make him a crook. He is appears to be a man of faith who is moved by that faith to give to the poor and always to correct injustice with generosity. He's very excited to catch a glimpse of Jesus filled with joy when Jesus recognizes him and invites himself over! In the face of the accusations of the his extremely judgmental brothers and sisters of faith, he strongly declares that he acts as a true 'Son of Abraham and Jesus affirms that he knows this is true.
Sadly, the people don’t see him this way, but instead they judge him by what he does for work. If we read the story in this way, we see a great example of a person of faith, who lives his faith, and is persecuted by his own brothers and sisters instead of praised.
Too often, people experience 'church' in this same way. Too often, people become deeply wounded by their brothers and sisters in Christ and too often the 'church' is more a refuge for the pharisee than a place of healing for the sinner. Focusing on this we can become part of the very same negative spirit of disunity in the 'church'. Even as Zacchaeus responded to his 'judges', he did not attack them, he merely pointed out there error.
To love each in Christ, is not easy but it is possible by the power and grace of God and it is essential to the salvation of the world. Christ wants the body of believers, His body, to experience the kind of union the He and the Father experience. Christ wants us to be blazing with fires of faith. Christ wants to be recognizable to the world, through us... by our love for each other they will see.
You and I are probably a mix between the Pharisee and the Tax collector. At times we recognize our guilt and seek God’s forgiveness and at other times we are very proud of ourselves and forget to recognize God in our successes and see ourselves in such a positive light that we also forget that we are still sinful in many ways and in need of God’s mercy.
At the core of all of our sins is a failure to love. A deep awareness of sin is a sign that God is very much part of our lives and that we desire to receive God’s mercy, knowing that we depend upon it in order to overcome our weaknesses. It will also help us to be more compassionate and understanding towards others in their sinfulness and weakness.
“God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” This prayer makes a connection with God because it recognizes that God's greatest quality in relation to fallen creation, is his mercy and because the tax collector's prayer recognizes his personal need for that mercy. God wants to connect with us, but he can only do so if we let him, and we can't let him if we don't think we need him.
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Catholic understanding of the Blessed Sacrament is rooted in the Word of God
Readings: Exodus 17:8-13, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 and Luke 18:1-8
One example of this is the way in which the ‘gospel of the world’ can ware us down, and make us weary, and so because we live in this secular culture, a distorted view of God and Jesus can seep into our minds without our realizing it, subtly affecting every aspect of our lives. How do we protect against this happening?
We were never made to live as disciples and to grow in faith, ALONE. This is a FAITH OF COMMUNION. We are members of the ‘One Body’ and together we rise and fall. We must reach out for help, persistently seek others who will hold us up and make us steady during those times when the tasks get difficult.
We are strengthened through PRAYER AND THE WORD OF GOD.
If we always pray alone it can get hard, and dry. But we are not meant to pray alone all the time. Spouses need to pray together. Families need to pray together. Communities need to pray together. In coming together to pray, we are responding the the stirring of the Spirit of God and we are stronger together. When we are stronger in this way, we are also stronger when we are alone. We will be more able to pray without ceasing in our daily lives. We will be able to more readily refuse to fall to temptation, and we will more quickly reach out when we are in spiritual need. This also leads to a much more acute awareness of God’s presence, and helps us to avoid giving up. In this communion we will hear more often how God is answering our prayers and we will grow in trust in God that God is for sure hearing all of my prayers and will also answer me.
Breaking open the Word of God is an encounter with Christ who is the Logos, the ‘Word made Flesh’. In these Scriptures, God speaks to us as a community and as individual children of God. God wants us to be wise through "training in righteousness," as part of how we will be equipped for every good work." God expects that as we break open, meditate upon, pray with, and learn from these Scriptures, we are made more powerful, able to act in ways that lead others to experience conversion and transformation, which is the way in which the world is changed.
God wants us to discover ourselves in Christ through the living Word that is Christ. God will speak and God will call.
That's the power that God wants to unleash in each one of our lives, the supernatural power of his inspired Word.
A special word to Parents: St. Paul specifically says, ‘Timothy, follow (persist, continue, abide) in the things that you have learned.’ He isn’t referencing himself here. Paul is speaking about a much more primary and formative time in Timothies life. If you remember the beginning of the letter to Timothy, Paul was thanking God for Timothy and recalling Timothies grandmother and mother, in light of the faith they passed on to him. Imagine for a moment, Timothy becoming familiar with the Word of God as his mother and grandmother spoke to him, sang the psalms and shared the accounts of the many times God had saved their people. Imagine how he might have breathed in, all around him, the practices the smells the sounds the trials the suffering the joys and the ecstasies experienced in his family and their house of faith, their home. In those years Timothy became convinced of the truth of God and immersed himself in those truths. Those same truths, discovered most profoundly in God’s Word, brought to life and fruitful meaning through his family, these give him the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Parents have been called by God to be like Timothy’s mother and grandmother, and to echo the words of Jesus to the two men on the road to Emmaus… that, the entirety of the jewish scriptures is about Christ, points to the Messiah and reveals Him to us. Believing in God’s Word, parents are called to ‘continue in the book’, to live lives rooted in the Word of God and to immerse your children in it so that they too will come to know, love and serve the Lord with all their heart and all their mind.
This is the most intimate and beautiful example of the communion we are born for and called to live. Families that share faith and love, who stand with and for each other in order to first and foremost grow in relationship with God, in covenant with each other and in Christ. There is no more tender example of this, and this is the primary example in this world of the communion shared between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
On Faith: When faced with dire predictions of destruction, did we respond with peace, joy and the knowledge that no matter what happened, God is with us? Did we help our neighbors? Did we pray individually, as families and with others? Did I act like a disciple of Christ at the gas station, in traffic, at the grocery store? Faith, even that of a mustard seed, if it’s more than just words and piety, is what makes us strong at such times as these. Events like these are when the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be fired up and made of use to everyone around us. Faith gives us wisdom, guides our actions, inspires courage, eliminates anxiety, opens us to the needs of others and helps us to be leaders.
On Thankfulness: After the storm passed, was I an example of Christian love, mercy and gratitude? Have I been complaining and inciting others to complain about the representatives of government and meteorology, about how they exaggerated the threat once again. How they’re so unreliable? Have I been complaining about how long it’s taking to get power, get back to work, having to go back to work… etc? As followers of Christ who are called to help others see and desire a better way, we are to lead in a spirit of thankfulness. Isn’t it a huge relief that despite every indication, at the last moments, the storm shifted east and was reduced in intensity? Despite the very real damage up and down the coast, especially in the Flagler and St. Augustine areas, isn’t it a huge blessing that what was expected never arrived? Can you imagine the devastation if it had been what was expected? As bad as the world can be sometimes, and as violent as people in our city can be… isn’t it incredible how little looting and vandalism occurred?
As I traveled on Saturday and was able to see what happened in other parts of our diocese, I was struck by the amount of destruction and overcome with thankfulness that it wasn’t worse. I was sad for those in South Ponte Vedra Beach and Vilano Beach, who have suffered devastating loss and I was grateful that the Carmelite Monastery in Bunnell was spared. I was amazed to see Highway signs torn from the ground still attached to their cement anchors, billboards shredded like paper in my hand, and trees seized from the ground at their roots and laid waste by the wind. I was encouraged by stories of neighbor helping neighbor, especially those parishioners who came as soon as they were called, to clean up Blessed Trinity. I’m thankful that the trees outside our Church were blown away from the Church. I’m thankful for all the hard work and long hours that our first responders, government officials, hospital staff, news reporters and all the other city staff selflessly gave in order to ensure the safety and security of us all.
You may have lost something in this storm. You may have been inconvenienced during the storm. But more importantly, what are you thankful for, in the midst of the storm?
On what we do here on Sundays: We come here in recognition of our mission and to give thanks. We are a Eucharistic people, a people of ‘Thanksgiving’. We come to receive and to give. We receive the Lord in Word and Sacrament, and we give thanks. We are here to be transformed and empowered by God, who sends us out as missionaries from here to live as Word and Sacrament to the world. What we do here helps us to measure our faithfulness out there. We come to seek and to receive forgiveness for our failures and be reminded us of God’s infinite love as we receive God’s mercy. What we do here, we do in remembrance of Him, because it’s so easy to forget between Monday - Saturday that it was through suffering and death that we are saved.
On meeting my maker: Preparing for this hurricane, in many analogous ways, is like preparing for the coming of the Lord. We heard the reports of dire consequences if we didn’t get out of harms way. We heard that we must gather together what's important to our survival. We heard that we must follow instructions. We heard that we must be prepared for the worst and do everything we can to ensure that we live. Sound familiar? So do I take the exhortations of Scripture, the teachings of the Church and the guidance of my shepherds… seriously? Do I really believe that my soul may be at risk? Am I really doing what I really need to be doing in order to ensure that I live? Am I avoiding harm? Maybe I hear it all, and just figure that I’ll be just fine with a little bit of prayer, a little bit of Church and a little bit of sin. Well, sometimes we can get away with a little bit of effort and a lot of false security… like last month when we were told to get ready for a storm that never came, for us that is. Sometimes, like this weekend, we escape the worst of the predictions and we feel even more secure in doing the bare necessities. But the day will come when the Cat 5 arrives and does its worst… the day will come when your life is finished here… will you be prepared?
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.