Scripture Readings: Book of Wisdom 11:23-12:2; Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Gospel According to Saint Luke 19:1-10
The Liturgical Year 2015-2016 is drawing to a close. In less than a month we will begin a new Liturgical Year with the First Sunday of Advent on November 27th. I also need to say that with the First Sunday of Advent the “Prior’s Page” will cease to exist in its present form, as I prepare for an assignment in Rome. I have been asked to be an assistant to our new Abbot President Guillermo Arboleda Tamayo over the next four years. I will also be able to return to Christ in the Desert at regular intervals over that time.
If you haven’t heard about my new work, please visit our News Page on our website (under “Abbot’s Notes”) to learn what I will be doing. You will need to scroll down the page some, as my assignment is now “old news.” Nonetheless, your prayers are appreciated. Once I am in the Eternal City I will see what I might write and post on our website.
The Gospel passage for this Sunday in Ordinary Time tells us the beautiful story of someone who had a real conversion after encountering Jesus Christ. Zacchaeus the chief tax collector of Jericho and tree climber ends up doing great things when the Lord comes to dine with him.
We are told Zacchaeus needed to climb a tree in order to see the passing Lord. This action says something about his tenacity or at least curiosity to know more about this rabbi of whom many spoke. Seeing the Lord and listening to his words, Zacchaeus reveals a readiness to change his ways and make amends for any he may have defrauded.
The first reading this Sunday, written just a century before the birth of Christ, stresses the overwhelming kindness of God. It is clearly expresses that God loves all things that are and loathes nothing that he has made. Furthermore, God’s spirit abides in all things. Is this pantheism, the belief that all things are God? No, but it is what is sometimes called “panentheism,” that is, God’s goodness residing in everything.
The second reading for Mass this Sunday, words of Saint Paul, emphasizes that the Lord does not come in an agitating or terrifying way, but rather in “every honest intention and work of faith.”
We see the truth of the first and second readings manifested in the attitude of Jesus toward the rich man Zacchaeus. From Jesus perspective, everything and everyone is holy. It is only the incorrect or evil use by selfish intention of the heart which results in profaning what is holy and in turn reducing people and objects to an unholy level of being.
Jesus invites himself to the home in order to dine with the rich tax collector Zacchaeus. The Lords is able to see the goodness of an otherwise despised person and causes a stir, whereby people say, “He has gone to a sinner’s house as a guest.”
In the course of their dining Zacchaeus admits he has cheated people but is ready and willing to make amends. Is it the shock of Jesus in his house that causes the change of heart? It doesn’t matter! Obviously Jesus saw an opportunity here to convert the heart of a sinner. Presumably Zacchaeus remained a tax collector, but now an honest one. As a Jew his people did not respect him, but now he could at least carry out his work with a clear conscience.
The important point, no what the profession of Zacchaeus or anyone else may be, is simply that “the Son of Man has come to search out and save what was lost,” as Jesus expressed it. While we rejoice in this reality, we must also apply it to our daily life, that is, never losing hope in others, either friends, family, co-workers or whomever. We must keep striving to assist those in need, the loveable or not, and extend to them the loving hand of Jesus as best we can.
The late Father Carroll Stuhlmueller, of the Congregation of the Passion, sums up well our work, commenting on the Gospel text of this Sunday, with this prayer:
“Lord, you are gracious and merciful. Impart your kindness to me so that I will always be slow to anger and compassionate towards all your works. You are faithful in your words and holy in all your works. Let me see your sanctifying and faithful hand in the words and works of my neighbor” (from “Biblical Meditations for ordinary Time, Weeks 23 – 34,” Paulist Press, 1984, p. 370).
Prior Christian Leisy, OSB
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Abiquiu, New Mexico