Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Return is Good News (2013-11-03)

This is my homily for Sunday November 3, 2013.  I am a Catholic chaplain at  Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU, Teaneck),   FDU Newman Catholic Association,  New Jersey City University (NJCU) in Jersey City.  At FDU, Sunday Evening Mass is celebrated 5:00 pm during Fall 2013 and Spring 2014. at FDU Chapel, 842 River Road, Teaneck. 

[__01a__]      The return is Good News.

We read this Sunday from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 19, in which Zacchaeus touches down – returns – to earth not only according to the law/force of GRAVITY …but also according to the invitation of Jesus, the new law of love.

 [__01b__]    The return was -- also -- Good News for the Prodigal Son whose arrival home was marked by music and mercy, feasting and forgiveness.

Zacchaeus returns and makes good on his debts/sins against others.

For those whom he took money unfairly / unjustly, the 4-times payback, the 400% return is also good news.

 [__01c__]     The problem for Zacchaeus is not his high altitude of wealth or money … but his attitude and choices made to collect such wealth and status. 

The return is Good News. Zacchaeus recognizes his responsibility to give back and avoid dishonesty.

“Come down quickly for I must stay at your house,” Jesus says. (Luke 19:5)
The return is a relationship with our Savior.   The return to earth is good news.

[__02__]   Zacchaeus willingly climbs down from his branch.

But, he would have reason to be reluctant. The people beneath him – physically, socioeconomically, intellectually – bear him great contempt and resentment.

The tree branch is a refuge, but it will only last temporarily.

His wealth – material possessions – are also temporary.

 [__03__]  One biblical commentator writes that Zacchaeus held a high (exalted) position at an important customs post in the town/city of Jericho. Zacchaeus had turned this position into something very profitable.

Material success, in a sense, also increases his height above others.

Isn’t this the case with the material success or material status of, say, many official persons – the President, Governor, Senator …

These are individuals resemble Zacchaeus and would dare not run ahead of a crowd for a better view or climb a tree. Rather, other people / crowds  clear the way for them.  And, for a better view.. well … we can see them with a  television set around their heads.

So, Zacchaeus normally would not run fast to overtake a crowd, he normally does not climb trees…this would be beneath his official dignity.  Zacchaeus can afford to fly first class and frequently, with Gold Elite Status on United and a Platinum card.

He flies when others sit in traffic.

The return is Good News.

Zacchaeus returns to earth, seeking a relationship through faith and action, making a profession of faith in Jesus and also making reparation – payback – to those whom he has wronged.

Zacchaeus is similar to the tax collector about whom we read in last Sunday’s Gospel.  This tax collector makes one petition before God, “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13)

[__04__]     Sometimes, we may be believe – or come to think – that we are only happy – fulfilled – when we are on the high branch, at a high altitude, flying and flying frequently …

How do we attain such heights ?

What is the high branch for you, for me?

[__05.(a)__]   The high branch could be our ambition, our pride, our desire to be seen by others in the best possible light.

Accepting our faults, we do not become instantly a success – or a failure.  Rather, we are accepting our need for God’s grace. This is humility.

The return to earth is Good News.

 [__05.(b)__]  The high branch could be our desire for satisfaction for a relationship, or for a relationship to go a particular way, even if this is contrary to our own faith, to our knowledge of what  is fair, just, true.

Am I driven by desire for satisfaction, possession … or possessions?

Am I willing to be possessed by the Holy Spirit and to serve God and my neighbor.

Zacchaeus opens the door of his home as we are called to do, to open the door of our car, our dorm room, our hearts to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We are not simply entering God’s house when we come to Sunday Mass. Jesus is entering our house each day that we descend from our sycamore tree.

The return is Good News.

[__05.(c)__]    The high branch could be my – or your – bitternness, resentment over a previous hurt.

Anger is sometimes a high and mighty branch.

The climb down maybe gradual. And, we may not climb down into the exact same relationship as before. Nevertheless, forgiveness is a return home for both the person doing the forgiving… even if the person being forgiven is not aware.

Loving our adversaries – our enemies – does not mean we have to surrender ourselves to our enemies.

Rather, we are surrendering ourselves to God.

In the act of forgiveness, we are also sharing the wood of the branch, the wood of cross, the suffering of Calvary where Jesus was also up a tree.

Sharing his mercy and forgiveness, we ourselves come back to street level in Jericho.

The return to earth is Good News. 

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