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Homly for 2/13/05 - Zacchaeus

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  • David Moser
    Luke 19:1-10 We often speak about the different cycles of prayer and liturgical services in the Church. There is the daily cycle of the typical services
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 13, 2005
      Luke 19:1-10

      We often speak about the different cycles of prayer and liturgical services
      in the Church. There is the daily cycle of the "typical" services marked
      especially by vespers, matins and the regular hours. There is the cycle of
      the 8 tones and the cycle of the various feasts and saints that we
      celebrate. On of the most prominent yearly cycles is the Paschal cycle -
      that is those services and prayers that find their center in the greatest of
      all feasts, Pascha, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Paschal
      cycle includes the services of Lenten Triodion and the Pentecostarian and it
      also extends throughout the whole year with the daily Gospel and Epistle
      readings (which are all determined by their relation to Pascha). The Sunday
      before we begin the readings and services of the Lenten Triodion with the
      Sunday of the Publican and Pharisee, we always read the Gospel account of
      Zacchaeus. It is as if this Gospel marks the beginning of a new Paschal
      cycle, and yet it is not part of the Triodion. Often we think of Zacchaeus
      as the beginning of the prelenten period because of its regular appearance
      here, however, there is another reason why it would occur regularly before
      the beginning of the new cycle and that is that it marks the end of the old
      cycle. Just as New Years Eve always heralds the new year and leads up to
      New Years Day but does not itself belong to the New Year, rather it marks
      the end of the old; in the same way the Gospel of Zacchaeus heralds the
      coming of the new Paschal Cycle, by marking the end of the old.

      As the end of the old cycle, it holds a very special place and thus also
      holds for us some very significant meaning. At the end of the old year, it
      is not uncommon to review the year's events and accomplishments. In a sense
      this Gospel, being the finale of the cycle of the yearly Gospel readings
      also reviews and summarizes the whole of the Gospel for us. In this case it
      is not the subject matter that is reviewed, but rather the effect of the
      Gospel on the soul. Zacchaeus stands as the representative of all of us and
      Gospel represents and is represented by Christ. To see the interaction of
      Zacchaeus with Jesus Christ is to see the development of each of us as we
      encounter Christ throughout the year and throughout the whole of our lives.

      Zacchaeus was a man full of sin. He was a tax collector and as such was
      rejected by the whole of society as an evil and undesirable man. Every man
      is as much a sinner as Zacchaeus and because of the sin that fills us, we
      are rejected and cast out of the society of the kingdom of God. But when we
      hear the Gospel, it has the same effect as the news of Jesus' coming had to
      Zacchaeus. He was filled with curiosity and hope. He rushed out to see the
      Lord and made every effort he could just to get a glimpse of Christ passing
      by, even climbing a tree to see clearly above the heads of the crowd. This
      is the kind of eagerness and hunger for the Gospel that we should all show.
      But too often we hear about the Gospel but make no effort to hear it. We
      come late to the services, or sitting at home, find it too difficult to open
      the book of the Gospels and read a few verses for ourselves. All it takes
      is a little enthusiasm, a little energy, a small act of the will - but alas
      for many of us, even this little bit is too much. But for Zacchaeus, he
      decided that he would see Christ and so he ran out of his house to the road
      where Jesus would pass and when faced with a crowd of people, went to the
      greater effort to find a tree and climb it so as to be above the heads of
      the crowd and so just get a glimpse of the passing Savior.

      This effort did not go unrewarded, for when our Lord Jesus Christ saw
      Zacchaeus sitting in the tree and looking into his heart and seeing his
      enthusiasm and desire for the Gospel, He stopped, spoke to Zacchaeus and
      told him that He would come today to his home. When we make even the small
      effort required to hear the Gospel, when we nurture the desire within
      ourselves to hear even a small portion, to catch even a small glimpse of
      Christ, the reward is great for in that moment Christ comes to us. The
      words of the Gospel enter our hearts and begin to grow and spread throughout
      our being. The grace of God begins to work in us - just as the result of
      our desire to hear the Gospel and the small effort to fulfill that desire.

      Hearing from our Lord that He would come and dine with him, Zacchaeus ran
      home to prepare for the coming of the Lord. This too should reflect our own
      lives. When we hear the Gospel and it touches our heart, this inspires us
      to do more, to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ Himself. We hear
      often how Jesus Christ dwells within our hearts, how the Holy Spirit abides
      in us, how we are always in the presence of God. But too often we ignore
      this and go on as if nothing need be done. But Zacchaeus, upon hearing that
      Jesus Christ was coming to his home, ran home and prepared for the coming
      of the Lord by cleaning and making sure that all was in place and that there
      would be tasty food ready to offer. No detail was left unaddressed. When we
      hear the Gospel and our hearts are inflamed with the love of God, we too
      should prepare ourselves in the same way for the coming of the Lord. We
      should cleanse our lives of all that is sinful and displeasing to God and we
      should prepare for him the appropriate offering, that is the virtues which
      are the fruit of the Holy Spirit and the result of His grace acting in us.

      Finally Christ comes to Zacchaeus' home and every word that is spoken is
      heard and kept and treasured. These words of Christ transform the heart of
      Zacchaeus, prompting first a recognition of his own sinfulness, then
      repentance which leads to a transformation and change in his whole life.
      This is the effect of the Gospel and of the presence of Christ in us. The
      words of the Gospel, when we hear them, bring us into the presence of
      Christ. We are able to see our own sins, and seeing them race to do away
      with them through repentance. After separating ourselves from sin, we are
      then empowered by these same words of the Gospel to transform our lives
      through the grace of the Holy Spirit to bring forth not sin but virtue and
      the fruit of the spirit. The words of the Gospel touch us and make us new
      creatures in Christ.

      This is the effect of the hearing of the Gospel on each of us and it is
      demonstrated today in the life of Zacchaeus. We nurture in our hearts the
      love of God and the desire to hear the Gospel - just as we sing in the
      beatitudes, "blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness for
      they shall be filled." And this is true, our desire for the Gospel is
      fulfilled by the hearing of the Word - that is the Gospel. When we make the
      effort to hear the Gospel - that is to read the Gospel daily at home or to
      come and hear it read and sung in the Church and to allow it to sink into
      our hearts by our attention and prayer, then Christ comes and dwells within
      us. Desiring and anticipating His coming we prepare our soul to meet Him as
      best we can, and when He comes He enlightens us, opens our eyes to see and
      our ears to hear and reveals by the light of His divine presence even the
      darkest corners of the soul. This Divine Light and presence prompts us, as
      it did Zacchaeus, to repent and turn away from our sins, even those that
      have hidden for years in the dark corners of the soul. When we repent we
      are filled instead with the divine grace which transforms us developing
      within us the fruit of the Holy Spirit, the virtues of righteousness that
      fill us with the Divine Light of Christ.

      Just as Zacchaeus was transformed by the coming of Christ - so also the
      Gospel, the Word of Christ, transforms us and brings us into the living
      presence of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.
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