On this feast day weekend, I would like to share with you my quick definition of the Church. In heaven, All Saints. In purgatory, All Souls. On earth, all sorts!
1) Throughout his public life, Jesus manifested his power by curing the sick, feeding the multitudes, changing water into wine…
What makes our gospel story today so impressive is that there was no miracle. And yet something very miraculous happened.
Zacchaeus, as we heard, was a short person. So he climbed up a tree in order to see Jesus. People probably laughed at him, ridiculed him. But Zacchaeus followed his heart. He wanted to see Jesus. It didn’t matter what others thought. He was a little guy with big courage.
What did Jesus do for him? Jesus didn’t cure any illness or miraculously feed him. Instead Jesus simply chose to spend time with him. He chose to be present to Zacchaeus. Jesus gave him the gift of attention. He honored him as a person.
An author named Gary Chapman wrote a book titled The 5 Languages of Love. One of these languages is Quality Time.
That’s what Jesus gave Zacchaeus: Quality Time. The result was that Zacchaeus was transformed. According to our reading, he decides to give half his goods to the poor, and return four times the amount to anyone he has cheated. Zacchaeus became a different man. By his loving and affirming presence, Jesus turned the water of a selfish life into the wine of a generous, self-giving life. The miracle of transformation.
It was Benjamin Disraeli who gave us this thought. He said, “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”
That’s what Jesus did. He revealed to Zacchaeus his own inner riches.
We can do the same. We cannot walk on water, or multiply loaves and fishes, as Jesus did. But we can do what he did in today’s gospel. We call it hospitality. We can welcome someone into our heart, and give them the gift of quality time. That means:
By affirming the worth of another we can dispel their depression.
By encouraging words, we can free another from self-doubt.
By attentive listening we can release people from their loneliness.
By our loving presence, we can dismiss their fears.
By our prayers, we can help them find God.
2) A second thought for today… Remember the story about David and Goliath in the Old Testament? Goliath was a giant of a person, a very scary creature, and not very friendly of the Israelite people. (I think Goliath would be a good Halloween costume, wouldn’t it?) He challenged them to a battle. And who do you suppose takes on this giant? A little shepherd boy named David. David had the courage to take on the giant Goliath, because David knew the Lord would be with him.
So, as the story goes, Goliath, brandishing a large sword comes after David. David takes a stone, places it in his sling, whips it into the giant’s head, knocks him out and slays him. This was quite a victory, and there was great rejoicing among the people. They must have thrown a big party, a victory celebration. And I’ll bet it lasted for many days.
In the gospel of Matthew and Luke Jesus is called the “Son of David”. Interesting title. Did Jesus also fight a giant? Actually, Jesus took on something much bigger than a giant. Jesus challenged the very powers of death. And for a brief moment, it looked like death won. Jesus died on the cross.
But on Easter morning, Jesus rose from the dead. Death no longer had any power over him. As St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)
After Jesus’ rising from the dead and being victorious over death, there was great rejoicing. His followers had a celebration, a victory celebration. Indeed, this celebration has lasted for two thousand years. It is called the Mass. We, the followers of Jesus, gather each Sunday to rejoice as we proclaim, “…by your cross and resurrection, you have set us free.” The Mass is our victory celebration.
At this victory celebration, we show our gratitude by offering a gift. In Eucharistic Prayer II, we pray with the priest and say, “we offer you (Father) in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.” This sacrifice is Christ, and ourselves with him.
The Saints in heaven whom we honor this weekend have the full benefit of Christ’s victory.
The Souls in Purgatory whom we also honor this weekend await the fullness of Christ’s victory.
And we on earth have our hope of heaven based on Christ’s victory. Thanks be to God. Amen.