22 January 2012

Homily on Zacchaeus

They say that curiosity killed the cat, but curiosity brought Zacchaeus life. He was curious about Christ, and when he heard that the Lord was coming to his town, he did a very cat-like thing: he climbed a tree.
Why the tree? For one thing, he was short. But that wasn’t all. For him to get in the midst of a crowd could be dangerous. After all, he wasn’t the favorite man in town. He was a chief tax collector, and he was very good at his work.
He must have thought things through, too—like a cat planning to catch its prey. Jericho was a big, busy city with lots of streets and lanes. Which street would Christ come down? Which tree on that street would be best to climb?
So there he was, perched in his tree like a cat. But when the Lord passed by, the game of cat-and-mouse was reversed. Christ stopped in his tracks, looked up, and caught Zacchaeus where he was…he caught him with love.
He called Zacchaeus by name. “Zaccchaeus,” he said, “come down. I must stay today at your house!” When we hear it, we might miss the word “must.” “I must stay today at your house.” It wasn’t an option. It was part of his plan, all along.
Quickly Zacchaeus scooted down the tree. He didn’t worry what others thought. He didn’t think about what other plans he might have had for the day. He was completely captured by Christ’s love.
The crowd complained…they always do, don’t they? So Zacchaeus said to Christ, “Look, Lord! I give half my goods to the poor; and if I’ve taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore it four-fold!” Think what this meant: Zacchaeus was sold out for Christ. He was choosing to go from riches to rags. He was choosing poverty; or rather, he was making friends by means of mammon.
Today, in the midst of winter, the smell of Spring is in the air—the Lenten Spring, that is…the light of repentance. It’s only a few short weeks till we begin our journey to Christ’s cross and tomb—and then, the joy of Pascha.
For on that day when Christ called Zacchaeus down from the tree, he was very near the time when his journey took him to another tree—the cross. There he hung between heaven and earth as the noblest fruit. By being raised on that tree, he overcame the fall that resulted from another tree. He put death to death by death, and brought our life to light.
Today the Lord Jesus passes by again. He calls us by name. He bids us come down from the trees we’ve put ourselves in…to come to him for salvation—healing and wholeness.
So let us loose our grip on the things that hold us back: our pleasures and possessions, our sin and selfishness. Let us, like Zacchaeus, find our pleasure in giving away possessions. Let us who receive Christ’s very life in the Eucharist, learn to share that life. He who gave himself into death for us, will provide the things we need to live with him, and bring us at last to his heavenly Kingdom, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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