This is my homily for Sunday 31 October 2010, 31st Sunday for the on-campus Sunday Mass (7:30 p.m.) of Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ. Mass is every Sunday during Fall 2010 + Spring 2011 semesters. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.
Wisdom 11:22-12:2 | Psalm 145 | 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 | Luke 19:1-10
[__01_- Keep Your Head Down__] In San Francisco, in the first two games of the World Series, the Texas Rangers didn't hit a home run and Josh Hamilton, their best hitter, (and of the best in the major leagues) was 1-for-8.
Last night, Josh Hamilton hit a 426-foot home run at home in Texas.
How do you connect with a baseball – or a tennis serve? What Josh Hamilton (or Venus Williams in tennis) would tell you – is this -- keep your head down.
This is the focus you need to concentrate.
In the Gospel of Luke, Zacchaeus – a chief tax collector of Jericho – is concentrating. Doesn’t he have to – in order to climb up and through the branches of a tree?
Zacchaeus also is an example of one who is focused on Christ and who is more focused on Christ than his own sinfulness.
Zacchaeus, in a popular sense, is also 1 for 8, a low batting average with the people he serves. He has struck out many times.
[__02_- Prayer, Conversation & Confrontation__] Yet, here is Zacchaeus persistent, as Paul urges us. That is, insistent in season and out of season, in season and in the post season, all the time. (cf., Timothy 4:2)
Zacchaeus is the forgiven sinner who wants to give back. (CCC 2712)
Zacchaeus is the forgiven sinner who wants to connect with God’s mercy and love and is willing to climb the sycamore to do so. It is difficult to confront a tree, to go up there alone, to keep one’s head down. Drawing himself into a tree takes Zacchaeus away from his office, his flat-screen display,
It would have been easier for Zacchaeus to stay on solid ground, the terra firma.
Entering into prayer for 10 or 15 minutes or is also a conversation with our Lord and Savior. But,this could also be a confrontation with something difficult, uncomfortable.
Keeping one’s head down in contemplation can be an intense silence. But we believe this is how we hear the Lord speaking. Also, this silence helps us to survive (even thrive) in our activity and separate the true signal from the noise.
[__03_- Tree Climbing __] Zacchaeus is in the tree.
How does he do it? What do tree-climbers and mountain-climbers and ladder-climbers tell us? They differ a bit from the MLB baseball player.
They say, “don’t look down”. That is, don’t look all the way down, 90° degrees to the ground. You could lose your way.
This is also the message to Martha who is in the kitchen ... don’t look too far down. It’s OK to stay focused, but don’t look all the way down, 90°.
Hearing that Jesus will be in town, Zacchaeus looks down only enough to get in and out of the tree.
But, in other ways, Zaccahaeus is refraining from looking down...and this too will help him balance. As a good tree-climber would, he focuses on the branch he is on, rather than on every single branch of the past.
Zacchaeus does not look down on:
[_3.01] HIMSELF and his own sinfulness. He could have. His record of dishonesty and using others for personal gain has earned him, shall we say, a low job approval rating in Jericho.
But, today, is a new day and new Election Day for him. Zacchaeus does not indulge in self-pity but rather rejoices in what he can do turn himself around and reconcile with those he has hurt.
Zacchaeus is also the most reviled and despised person in town. Yet, he does confesses from a tree top where everyone can hear and see.
Confessions are not usually heard here but anything is possible.
Zacchaeus is not looking down on himself but giving thanks for his life and what he will make of it with this second chance.
[03.02] OTHERS -- Zacchaeus also does not look down on others.
• On yourself and your own sins – Z. doesn’t. Repentance does not mean indulging in blame of oneself. Z. doesn’t and he’s the most despised person in town. He confesses from a tree-top where everyone can hear and see him. Confessions are usually not heard there … but anything’s possible.
• Don’t look down on the sins and faults of others, past and present. – see next 2 bullet points…
• ___ CCC 2845 - There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness, (cf. Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 17:3-4) whether one speaks of "sins" as in Luke (11:4), "debts" as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another." (Romans 13:8) The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relation ship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist. (cf. Matthew 5:23-24; 1 John 3:19-24)
• CCC 2845 – St Cyprian - God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (St. Cyprian – FN 149 to CCC 2845) ______ CCC 2845
[03.03 – coming back to earth] You and I and Zacchaeus are more secure by focusing on who we really are …paying attention ..keeping our head down …but without also turning our head all the way down to the ground. Then, we keep our balance and center.
Zacchaeus does not look down; he looks at Christ through this time of conversation and contemplation. And, this helps him to see more clearly what he needs to do. Then, he can come back down to earth more securely. [__end__]