Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
In the first reading today, we hear the prophet complaining to God, “when will you do something” – we’re stuck in this perverse world with no peace. In the Psalm – we pray as with Christ. We have faith in God, (His faithfulness) even with them turmoil all around us. People are looking for our lives, taking our possessions and peace.
The Gospel lesson – is a mirror of our own lives. We have Zacchaeus – much like most of us before the gift of faith is received. All of us are willfull sinners and we are drowning in a sea of lies, deceit and our own frailty.
He is afraid of the crowd, his sins are too well known and he fears what would they do to him. We don’t have to wonder …We have learned that by the accusations they made of Jesus. The leaders dared to berate him for simply eating with Zacchaeus.
But once an opening is made by the Holy Spirit we respond in faith. His heart was to see Christ this gave him disregard for his own person. He, being the chief tax collector – climbed up into a tree. I’m sure that he had servants and was mature. However, he still climbed the tree – I don’t think that I could have. He took action outside of his station to see the Lord. He lost his life, in order to reclaim it.
Notice, the proof of his faith, was to give away his riches – but he’s a smart guy. He was not being foolish, he kept ½ so that he would have funds to pay the fourfold promise.
Stop here a minute – ever think about why so many people don’t want to hear teaching about how to be responsible with money? There’s an allergy to pleas for help and fear to talk about it, can cause preachers to skip those whole passages. The greasy Devil has gotten us so confused about Biblical teaching and practice, eh.
Anyway – there’s aversion in our Apostolic faith. The acts of helping the poor are the demonstrations of faith. Jesus, himself says so here. We have a heavenly obligation to help the helpless. It’s not just a good idea, not for tax credit – no, there is even a link between wealth and difficulty to enter the Kingdom It’s hard for a camel to go through the needle – not impossible, but hard.
So many saints, once they experience an awakening by the Holy Spirit – give away all they have Saint Anthony and St. Francis and many many others upon entering a monastic life. In more recent times – Saint Katherine Drexel founded a religious order and gave away twenty million dollars of her fortune.
The monk I met at the monastery in Saskatchewan, explained how upon entering, all possessions are given away, usually to the monastery. This is how the monks and the mission have been sustained for 200 years or more.
One of the prerequisites for baptism is that the life of the candidate is examined. Is he humble, forgiving, a help to the poor – not greedy. Often each one was examined for a long time (up to 3 years in many cases) to see if they really have had a change of life. This before they would be admitted to the church through baptism.
There were religious people all around Him, that didn’t want Jesus, and He seeks out the one who did. None of them were willing to suffer loss to their reputation, wealth, or power. Again we see sacrifice is needed for true worship and we have to give to gain.
Our Saviour came to seek and save that which was lost. This is how he ended up in this tax collectors house. He came looking for Zacchaeus. He still comes looking today – He’s here today looking for you, if you need Him. The result will be – love, joy and peace by the Holy Spirit and not ease and comfort. These are not the same things.
And how, you say, can faith increase? It does so when we suffer something horrible for the sake of faith.1
St Paul starts right off in his 2nd letter to the Thessalonians telling them that because of their endurance in trouble their faith is growing …
1:3 We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of everyone of you for one another is increasing.
1:4 Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.
St Paul, ever mindful that he could be disqualified strove to persevere to the end. It is wonderful that our faith isn’t shaken when some argument comes to us, but that’s a very small thing. There was a time we were tossed about by every wind…described in Eph 4. However, even more importantly, when we stand in the midst of hard trials or circumstances, forcing our deep rootedness in God’s faithfulness, our ability to stand proves that our faith is growing…We are a house upon a rock…Matt 7.
As we obey, like Father Abraham, faith will grow in us. For the love of Christ, we will then obey our Saviour, who asked us to prove our love for him by doing what He commanded us. Here daily, and in the face of any challenge we can stand together as one man contending for the Gospel. Our faith is stronger today than last year, and the year before that. This really good, because we’re not done.
Let us then feed on the Body and Blood, as often as we can thereby receiving grace. Let us look out for each other and be a help and strength and a grace for them from God. Finally, let us practice a life as those who’ve gone before us.
Such as St. Clement the Fourth Bishop of Rome, following St Peter, who was third – from 88 to 99. He is the first Apostolic Father of the Church – mentioned in Phil. 4:3. Who was said to be martyred by being tied to an anchor chain and cast into the sea, for miraculously helping poor prisoners get water to drink. We’ll close with a portion of his “Prayer for all needs”.
We beg you, Lord,
to help and defend us.
Deliver the oppressed,
pity the insignificant,
raise the fallen,
show yourself to the needy,
heal the sick,
bring back those of your people who have gone astray,
feed the hungry,
lift up the weak,
take off the prisoners’ chains.
May every nation come to know
that you alone are God,
that Jesus Christ is your Child,
that we are your people, the sheep that you pasture.2
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
1 Thomas C. Oden and Peter J. Gorday, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament IX (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 103
Duccio, di Buoninsegna, -1319?. Zacchaeus, detail from Entry into Jerusalem, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57182 [retrieved March 27, 2020]. Original source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duccio_di_Buoninsegna_-_Entry_into_Jerusalem_(detail)_-_WGA06784.jpg.