31st Sunday of Ordinary Time
04 NOVEMBER 2001
Scriptual Reference: Wis 11:22-12:2, Ps 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14, 2 Thes 1:11-2:2, Luke 19:1-10

Finding a New Vantage Point

       Several weeks ago at the Country Fair, I was talking to some folks out by the elephant ear booth, when suddenly a parishioner presented a small girl to me with tear stained cheeks. In a gush, the adult parishioner explained that the little girl was lost, and asked if I could do something in order to reunite her with her parents. I contacted one of the policemen who were helping to provide security, and soon after, the girl’s frantic parents were reunited with her. Since the Country Fair, I have reflected a little on what this little girl’s experience must have been like. She was short of stature, so as she walked around in a large crowd of adults, she wouldn’t see any faces, only legs. She would have been pushed and pulled by the movements of the crowd, and she would not have had much control of the situation. In fact, I’m sure she must have felt pretty powerless.

       Today in the gospel, we hear about another short person lost in the crowd. Zacchaeus, as scripture says, was a chief tax collector. Even though Zacchaeus was a man of some means and had the power to command those who worked for him as tax collection agents, Zacchaeus was not in a position to see Jesus. He was short of stature, and couldn’t see over the men who were taller than he was. So, rather than give up and go home, Zacchaeus is deliberate. He wants to see Jesus. So, very intentionally, he climbs a tree in order to see out over the crowd. Imagine how this must have looked! A wealthy businessman climbing up a tree as a child might do. But, Jesus responds to the actions of Zacchaeus. He is likewise deliberate, and says, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” The crowd begins to grumble. “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner,” they say. Zacchaeus, not affected by the murmurings of the crowd, comes down quickly and receives Jesus with joy. Zacchaeus must have been profoundly moved by this encounter with Jesus, because takes it upon himself to dedicate half of his possessions to the poor. Then, he says, “If I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” Jesus responds by saying “Today, salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendent of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

       You know, we are a lot like Zacchaeus. Sometimes our lives can lead us to feel as if we are wandering aimlessly around in a crowd, not knowing where we are, or where we are going. Sometimes, we feel powerless like the little girl at Country Fair, with a lack of direction or security. We are pushed and pulled by our busy schedules, which press in on us sometimes making it hard to breathe. Zacchaeus offers us an example. Sometimes, we have to stop in our tracks, and find a new vantage point. We have to climb a tree to look out over our environment. This helps us to gain a new perspective, and to see our lives as they really are. We see that we are not taking good care of ourselves. We see that we don’t spend enough time in prayer. We see that we are not deliberate enough in offering our time and talent in service to others. Sometimes, it is easier to be pushed and pulled by the demands of our work life and our rigorous schedules rather than climbing up the tree to see things as they really are. But, in order for us to focus on what’s most important, we need that new perspective desperately. We need Jesus to find us.

       Today is Intention Sunday. As a parish community, we have invited you to climb up the tree and take a look at our ministries and our needs, through our Stewardship Fairs and our Time and Talent Catalogs. In a few moments, I am going to invite those of you who have already spent time considering your pledge to the Church to come forward and to “lose your marble” by dropping your intention card and moving a marble from one jar to the next. I’d like to encourage those of you who have not yet had a chance to consider your pledge to do just that in the next few weeks. Our intention cards remind us that we should be intentional in all of our living: in how we pray, in how we spend time with our families, in how we participate in the ministries of the Church. When we are intentional, we stop milling aimlessly around in a huge crowd. When we are intentional, we climb up a tree to look out over our lives and environment. When we are intentional, Jesus Christ breaks into our lives, and invites himself into our homes. Like the policeman who helped a lost little girl find her parents, Jesus finds us when we are lost, and brings us back to what is really important: spending time with God and with our families, worshipping and ministering in this community of faith, and offering back to God the gifts he has so generously given to us. +

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