In today’s Gospel we hear the story of Zacchaeus, a corrupt tax collector from Jerico. When Jesus goes to his house for dinner, the people of the town complain, because they know the kind of man Zacchaeus is. He is a man who has bid for the job of tax collector for the Romans. He doesn’t receive a salary for his work, but he collects as much money as he can so that he ends up with a handsome return after paying the Roman government the appointed sum. Men like Zacchaeus were despised not only by the Romans, but by their own people. So when Jesus spends time with Zacchaeus, it is shocking to the townspeople. He is siting with the enemy…
In another part of the Gospel, Jesus sends out the twelve apostles to preach. He is careful to instruct them to “ask for someone trustworthy” when they enter a town or village, and to stay in that house until they leave. (Mt 10: 11) He sends out his apostles to cure the sick and cast out devils, but wants them to stay far away from those like Zacchaeus – those who are sinners.
And St Paul gives similar instruction to the early Church at Corinth. He tells them not to associate with those who are living an immoral life – with those who are dishonest or greedy or idolatrous. He says, “You should not even eat a meal with people like that.” (1 Cor 5: 11)
Perhaps you are familiar with the saying, “one bad apple can spoil the barrel.” There is a principle behind it – evil has power and we should protect ourselves from that influence. But Jesus comes to heal – he comes to change everything. As he says to the concerned people of Jerico, “The Son of Man has come to seek out and save what is lost.” (Lk 19: 10) We could say that He has become like the good apple that has the power to transform the entire barrel of apples into good. Whatever he touches he heals. The blind see. The lame walk. And Zacchaeus is transformed, giving his property to the poor and repaying those he has cheated.
Each of us is in need of healing. Each of us is a sinner, brothers and sisters. Each of us is like Zacchaeus in some way. But let us ask ourselves what we do with that need – with the recognition of all that is in need of healing in us. Zacchaeus wasn’t just another sinner. He was a sinner who wanted to see Jesus. We are told that he was “anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was.” (Lk 19: 3), and climbed a tree to make it possible.
The story of Zacchaeus invites us to ask ourselves if we are serious about fully living out our call to holiness as Catholics. Do we really want to see Jesus, or are we comfortable with keeping him at a distance with a lukewarm faith? Is our catholic identity just for Sundays? Do we create compartments in our lives – separating our faith life from our work life and our life with friends – treating faith like a hat that we put on or take off depending on the situation?
Jesus wants to heal us – to transform us like he did Zacchaeus. But that transformation isn’t a magic trick – the wave of a wand and “poof” we are holy! We are called to ongoing conversion – giving ourselves away to the One who poured himself out for us, day in and day out. For 125 years, sinners have walked through these doors. They were looking for Jesus, like Zacchaeus was. And if these walls could speak, we would hear the stories of thousands of sinners who learned – slowly, sometimes painfully, always beautifully, to give themselves away.
Today we celebrate that He wants to be with you, that He wants to see your face, He desires to see your eyes. Jesus’ heart rejoices when He sees you entering those doors… He cares, He smiles when He sees you happy and is sad when you are down, He shares your dreams, He is hungry to listen to your words. He has given His heart day after day after day for 125 years and He will continue to give it for all eternity. Today is much more than a celebration of a building. It is the celebration of a person: a friend who is real and faithful. Praise God for these 125 years! We will never be alone! “Come down quickly for today I must stay at your house”
Are we looking for Jesus? Where is Jesus passing by in our lives right now? He always shows up for those who are looking for him. How about in your workplace? In your family? In your relationships? Are you running out to meet him, like Zacchaeus? Or are you afraid? Are you wondering, “If I see him, what will he ask of me?” The invitation of the story of Zacchaeus is to look for Jesus – to find a place where it will be possible for us to see Jesus and to hear him call our name. He still comes to seek and save what is lost. He still comes to the homes of those who open wide their hearts to his presence and are willing to live their lives for him alone.
Brothers and sisters of Saint Mark – let’s learn to live our lives looking for Jesus. Let’s accept the healing he offers us with joy and learn to lead others to the saving power of Jesus as well. We have been so blessed. God is truly present here and is working miracles all around us. New families join the parish every week – they are looking for Jesus and they find him - in our Bible studies, through Project Home, through our school, in our Adoration Chapel, at Emmaus and Family First Fridays, at the events of CCW and through all our activities, but most importantly through the Mass…through confession.
Today is a day of celebration. Let’s celebrate the healing and transforming power of Jesus in our lives and in the lives of those who have come before us these past 125 years. Let’s celebrate the good that is happing today, right here at Saint Marks. And let’s learn to always look for Jesus.