From Father's Desk

Dear Parish,

Be on the lookout for Good News! We are in the middle of our message series on Good News. I admit that some of the news and commercials during these past weeks have got me focused on the bad news, especially some of those campaign ads. And I have noticed that personally I need to “accentuate the positive” and look for the glass to be “half full.”

Here is some headline Good News: the Fightin’ Phillies are going to the World Series! In local Good News, we held our second annual Halloween Town on a perfect evening last Saturday. Lots of families on campus, mingling about, sharing time together. Thank you to all the volunteers who made the day possible. Some far-reaching Good News: so far, a dozen people are joining me on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land on 12-24 April, 2023. See the bulletin for more details!

Remember, Gospel (euangelion in Greek) literally means news that brings joy! Today in the Gospel, we meet a short man Zacchaeus - a wealthy chief tax collector - who is so excited to see Jesus that he climbs a tree! I imagine a rotund fellow in fancy clothes wrapped around a lower sycamore branch. Jesus was going to pass through Jericho without staying, but he meets Zacchaeus up in the tree. Because of this encounter our Lord says, “Today I must stay at your house,” because he has come “to seek and save what was lost.” And Zacchaeus, for his part, did not seem to be on the narrow road that leads to life, but on the path of self-seeking. Still the little man receives Jesus with joy. This is a moment of grace, a moment of encounter with Jesus. They see each other, really see each other.

I often imagine what it would be like to look into the eyes of Jesus. I pray one day God’s mercy will allow me to behold his face and smile.

Now the crowd grumbles because they know how Zacchaeus has behaved. But Zacchaeus is not fooling Jesus; nor is he fooling himself. He knows that he needs to change. This encounter becomes his invitation to conversion. In the eyes of Jesus, he is loved into turning over a new leaf, blessed into a new way of being. At that very moment, the tax collector resolves to set things right, even more. He will give half of his possessions to the poor and repay his extortion “four times over.” Today is a new day in the heart and life of Zacchaeus. Having experienced the grace and blessing of Jesus, he responds with generosity. God’s grace and mercy cause an overflow of generosity.

Zacchaeus can be a figure for all of us. We can admit at one time or another that our lives had been going in the wrong direction. Perhaps even today an area of our life needs the healing presence of Jesus. And sometimes in those moments, we do not seek Jesus out, although we admit that we need his intervention in a particular area. Suddenly we feel moved, to climb a tree, to return to church, to call a friend, to pick up the Bible, or just to go for a walk and talk with God. That is the invitation of grace. God invites us. God inspires every good work.

And that encounter, brief but real - so real, brings conversion to the heart and life of Zacchaeus. The fruit of this change of heart is generous. Just as the fruit of prayer and fasting is almsgiving. Generosity is a sign of overflowing charity. Zacchaeus recognized that “life does not consist of possessions” (Lk 12:15). A lesson that arises again and again in the Gospel of Luke.

If you experience God’s grace in your life, how might He be inviting you to greater generosity?

Fr. Wilson