Worthy of the
call.

But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!

Jesus’ meeting with Zacchaeus is one of the most beautiful encounters in the gospel. It is beautiful and poignant because it speaks to us in the ways we fall short of the call we have received and the hope we have for coming to worthiness.

St. Paul tells the Thessalonians to be worthy of the call. Jesus reminds Zacchaeus to live up to his call.

Let’s take apart the words here.

First, Jesus had no intention of hanging out in Jericho. The gospel tells us “[He] intended to pass through the town.”

But… there was this man Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus the short, the tiny, the little. It wasn’t so much about Zacchaeus’ physical stature, but rather his spiritual standing.

God’s only Son, Jesus, passing through the town comes across one fallen, one with great spiritual and moral shortcomings. and stopped as Wisdom says God does. The Lover of souls takes time to call Zacchaeus down from his lofty position and back to the reality of one called, a son of Israel and child of God. Jesus’ presence calls Zacchaeus to abandon his former ways … and he does.

Notice, Zacchaeus stands, stands on his own feet to be seen and heard by all. He renounces his former life and in doing so finds salvation. And not just Zacchaeus, but salvation had come to his entire house. 

There is such hope here. There is such promise!

Zacchaeus, like we, was the holder of God’s promise. He was not an outsider, not a castaway, forgotten – and Jesus did not pass him by. Jesus passes no one by. The Holy Spirit’s call to faith echoes in each person’s ears. We are all called as is every human being. There is no ‘them’ in the promise of hope. 

The call rang out in Zacchaeus’ heart, come unto Jesus. So, he climbed. It has rung out in our hearts – it is why we are here. It is ringing in ears across this city, county, state, nation, and world. We must therefore live worthy of the call, using the grace and power given us to powerfully bring to fulfillment the good God asks of us, the effort of faith. Let us bring in of the harvest through the word of hope we hold, the example we offer.

Our Lord
gets us.

…let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.

Today our Holy Church calls us to confidence. This call comes directly from scripture.

We start by understanding that we have reason to hold fast to our confession. Our confession is not something without an accompanying promise. In fact, the promise of God is that those who confess Him have a mansion waiting for them in heaven. We who confess Him have the promise of eternal life. We are entitled to call upon Him, and when we do so in faith all that we ask for will be given to us. Confess with confidence.

If this were not enough, the Letter to the Hebrews goes on to explain that our High Priest is also our Advocate. Jesus gets us. He intimately understands us. This isn’t just because He is God, but because He has traveled the same paths we travel. He set aside and emptied Himself and took up our humanity. He ate and drank as we do. He laughed and cried as one of us. He was tempted, He was hungry, He was poor, He was betrayed, He was abandoned, He faced the desecration of His Father’s house, and He suffered and died. He was similarly tested in every way.

As both God and man, Jesus has deep compassion for us. He sympathizes with us. He stands before the Father and claims ownership of us. He and His Precious Blood stand between the Father and us to invoke the Father’s mercy for us. He pleads for us; and is ever ready to take up our cause. As such, we have reason to approach the throne of grace. This is not a mercy-seat on earth such as the high priests of Israel approached with animal and grain sacrifices. It is rather the true throne of grace. A throne won through Jesus’ High Priesthood and self-sacrifice for our redemption.

This throne was built for us, unworthy though we are – so that without qualification, pre-requisite, or preparation we may come, open our hearts, confess our sins, and obtain God’s blessing. It is a throne of glory and beauty built to encourage us to come. It is a throne where grace is freely, frequently, and plentifully dispensed. Grace for pardon and sanctification so that we may be fit for God’s service and praise. Grace is dispensed to us from this throne without money and without price.

Our Lord gets us. He needed the Father’s grace and blessing to carry out His Father’s mission. Thus He offers us the same chance to come to His throne of grace for all we need. Let us be confident, confess Him, and go to Him.

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Provisions,
not just supplies.

Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

Dictionaries tell us that provision means items of goods or supplies, especially food, obtained for future use. It can also mean money set aside for a future event.

I grew up in Buffalo. Along William Street were the former meat packing plants that supplied food for much of the nation. I remember riding along in the car as we passed the various “provision” companies that remained: Elk Provisions, Camellia (Cichocki) Provisions – I get hungry just thinking about these places. Locally we may have passed Pede Brothers Italian Food or Orlev Provision Company.

Now we are ready to run out and get some great Polish or Italian food. If we visit these provision houses we are well aware of the requirement going in – we have to pay for the things we need.

Today’s gospel message reminds us that God’s provision is quite different.

The Church calls God’s provision grace. In First Communion and Confirmation class we discuss God’s grace in detail. Our children and youth learn that grace is God’s help given to us through the merits of Jesus Christ for our salvation. Grace is free to us – it is both a request and an offering of God’s love held out for us to freely accept and use. We can accept or reject this gift. If we chose to accept it, we fulfill God’s request and He gives us more and more grace to help us toward perfection.

That is all kind of theological. In its essence grace is God’s provision, His providing for us as our true Heavenly Father and Brother. God loves us so much that He wants to be in every part of our lives. He wants to be with us and in us so that He may provide for us in all areas of life. Scripture draws beautiful pictures of this provision. God caring for the lilies of the field and birds of the air – yet how much more important we are than they.

Our Father is there with grace at hand – all for us whether we are in a really good place or in a bad stage of life where we just don’t know where to turn. He is there with provision in hand if we are well off or in over our heads financially or emotionally or spiritually. He is there providing in the midst of noise, quiet, or loneliness.

We are called to acknowledge and recognize God’s provision even though we might not know exactly how that provision may come. His grace, His provision is more than temporary supplies that come and go and can even spoil. His love will never spoil or destroy – only save.

What is from
God?

God's free gift

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever, therefore, among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!”

Cyrus the Great is counted as the patron who delivered Israel from Babylonian captivity. Cyrus was the king of Persia. He was not Jewish. There is some speculation as to his religion, but as with many civil rulers to this day he believed in whatever may have suited him politically at the moment. So here is this politically savvy ruler who captured Persia, founded the Achaemenid Empire and conquered most of Southwest and Central Asia and the Caucasus. His rule stretched from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Indus River in the east. So why, in the first year of his reign, would he make a decree that the Temple should be rebuilt in Jerusalem and that the Jewish people who wished could return to their land for this purpose? He even allowed the treasures of the Temple, captured by Nebuchadnezzar, to be returned.

We can look at this like many look at faith – with incredulity. A savvy and strong political leader being generous – Who can believe that? Why would he empty his treasury and let these people go? There are all kinds of speculation as to why. Maybe it was a political move, gaining allegiance from all of the people Cyrus had conquered. Maybe he had an affinity for their belief system. Maybe… a thousand reasons.

St. Paul tells us: …by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. Paul tells us that God gives us tremendous gifts specifically so that we might have life. Cyrus is held up as an image of God’s generosity. Cyrus owed Israel absolutely nothing and they could do nothing for him. He had power and control and turns to these people and gives them everything.

The lesson is that God’s generosity is inestimable and unexplainable. God is self-sufficient yet desires to love and care for us He emptied His treasury and sent His only Son to die for us so we might enter into His eternal and heavenly city. What is from God is not power or security, or even health as the world understands those things. It is the gift of faith that is far more generous. By the gift of faith that is from God alone we enter into relationship with Him have life for all of eternity.

Reflection for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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The road
…taken or untaken.

On that day the mourning in Jerusalem shall be as great as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo.

Zechariah prophesies about Jesus’ suffering and death, not as a prophecy for the purpose of sadness and regret, but for the purpose of motivating people to understand what that suffering and death would purchase.

In his time the people could choose to confront the mourning to come by wallowing in that mourning without seeing a way out, or they could choose to see the hope to come, the salvation that was around the corner – only 500 years away.

Thus says the LORD: I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace.

Jesus gave His all, His life to pour out God’s graces on us, in fact on everyone. It is, as the catechism describes:

Grace is God’s help. Grace is a gift God gives us through all that Jesus Christ did for our salvation.

God doesn’t just want to offer us grace; He freely does offer us His grace – and we are free to choose it.

Zechariah is talking about two options. Since we live after Jesus’ coming and His opening of grace, we can accept and take advantage on all Jesus did, of what the Father offers us. We can choose to accept and bathe away our weakness, mourning and sin in the fountain of those graces poured out. Graces open to us:

On that day there shall be open to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness.

We can choose to be cleansed of sin and live His way, or we can simply choose not to accept, relish, and be changed by His gift of grace. We can choose to live as we are in mourning and sadness.

Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken comes to mind. But, it really isn’t a choice between two equally decent possibilities. Living a life that accepts God’s grace, the life Jesus laid out for us, is the better choice. It is the choice that frees us from sin that makes us clean, that is full and that has endless – eternal – possibility.

The disciples were confronted with a question. “Who do the crowds say that I am?” and “…who do you say that I am?” They had an opportunity to stick with the road the crowds had taken or they could accept the other road, the untaken road of grace that would give them new insight. They chose the untaken road and recognized God. Then they went and shared that grace. It is up to us, the road chosen, and the road we lead others to choose. Choose to see and to share the hope we have in Jesus.