Scripture this Sunday continues the theme of sin and humble repentance. We have the beautiful story of Zacchaeus who is changed by the entrance of Christ into his house. Lets confess ways we refuse to let Christ into our homes to change our lives.
“Will the circle be unbroken by and by, Lord, by and by/There’s a better world awaiting, in the sky, Lord, in the sky”. You know the Johnny Cash song. Its message is that life’s a circle that takes in earth and heaven. During the boom an ad used the song otherwise. It had luxury cars circling a town center. This is the better world it said. Much modern life is summed up in that; all we need is sex, big cars, mansions, drink, holidays abroad. Many buy the illusion that money is happiness and the world’s enough, but it adds zilch to our inner life and ends all too soon. Christ puts before us a higher call to integrity in our gospel. He tells us, like Augustine, that “we haven’t here a lasting city”.
That’s what Zacchaeus realized when Christ entered his house. He’d lived all his life as a cheat, money his god. He’d raised the taxes on the poor and kept the extra money for himself. He’d lived as if this world’s wealth, gained by foul means, was the b-all. When Christ entered his house, the eyes of his soul were opened, he repented, and lived a more integral just life, even compensating those he cheated. Christ needs to enter many houses in the same way now. Rich people with pads abroad, for example, who don’t pay a cent in tax here. Or people who gain riches by selling drugs that destroy our youth and spawn gun wars. If they repent and make reparation they too can be saved. Reparation in keeping with the crime’s vital to show repentance is real. Paying compensation and counselling for abused is a good example.
Such examples show that Zacchaeus’s story is still relevant today. Many are caught now too in the trap of pursuing wealth and pleasure regardless of the cost to others and their souls. But as the first reading reminds they will have to face the judgement of God judgement at some stage. There’s nothing new about this warning, remember the flood. They were eating, drinking, swapping wives, living immorally right up until Noah went into the ark and the flood swept them away. Caught up in this world and its values of which Satan’s lord, we too can lose sight of higher values. We can be blind to God, neighbor and coming judgement. Not that we shouldn’t enjoy the world, but its no use if we’re unhappy inside; as the Biblical saying goes “there is no rest for the wicked”. I often think those drug lords with pads in Spain don’t enjoy themselves, their consciences must be at them all the time.
By contrast Zacchaeus knew how to find inner peace and salvation. After meeting Christ his outlook changed. We should learn that lesson, if we are too caught up in worldly corruption. Comfort, good housing, money for joyful recreation is important, don’t get me wrong; there’s no virtue in misery. But we shouldn’t live in the world’s half circle, but complete it by soul fullness in Christ. As the year ends, the church reminds us of his second coming in judgement, but at any time our souls may be required of us. What we do on earth echoes through all eternity; if our souls are empty here they’ll be so forever and that’s hell. So its vital to repent like Zacchaeus. Then when Christ comes at last he’ll say “well done good and faithful servant”. Having joined the circle of heaven and earth in integral lives in faith we’ll go to meet him with all the saints. For all else is shadows and dust but he is lord of complete happiness for this world and forever and ever, amen. So as God’s own, uniting the spiritual and material circles in a perfect peace, lets profess our faith..
Prayers of the faithful
And as God’s people lets pray for our good here and hereafter..
For the Pope that he may continue to remind the world that our life in this world must be part of the circle of eternal values.
For our civil leaders that they may not try to divorce society from their spiritual welfare in a half-circle of futility.
For youth, like Zacchaeus may they invite Christ and his church into their soul’s houses and so complete the circle of life.
For ourselves that we may not be so caught up in the world of money making that we neglect to care for our own and our children’s deeper needs for love, care and healing faith.
For the sick, the aged, the lonely and the oppressed that Christ may enter their homes to bring God’s love and peace through us..
For the dead that through our continuing charitable prayers for them they may complete the circle of earth and heaven forever..
And we ask all these prayers through Christ who is lord of saving grace, integral living, and inner peace forever and ever, amen.
Christmas is coming and Zacchaeus’s story reminds me of the good king Wenceslaus Christmas carol. He too lived off what he received from people in taxes. But at least he tried to right the inequality in his kingdom in some way by helping a poor man survive the winter. Taking steps to right wrongs we create is vital for our salvation in this world and the next, not to mention peace of mind. Like Zacchaeus, lets humbly recognize our sinful mistakes and as humbly try to right them..Hail Mary