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Homily for 2/10/08 - P37 - Zacchaeus

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 19:1-11 The account of the conversion of Zacchaeus is always the last of the regular Gospel readings before we begin the Lenten and Paschal cycle all over
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 10, 2008
      Luke 19:1-11

      The account of the conversion of Zacchaeus is always the last of the
      regular Gospel readings before we begin the Lenten and Paschal cycle all
      over again. As such it stands both at the end of the liturgical cycle of
      readings and at the beginning. Zacchaeus is an example of the power of
      the grace of God to change the heart of a man and renew in him the image
      and likeness of God. This is a complete example, both for the process of
      repentance that we will soon take up in Great Lent and also of the end
      result of that process, the renewed and changed man.

      First we can look at Zacchaeus as an example of repentance. When our
      Lord Jesus Christ came to his home, Zacchaeus began immediately to
      repent. It is interesting to note that Zacchaeus did not invite Jesus to
      his home, he did not ask Him to come to him, rather Jesus came to
      Zacchaeus and Zacchaeus received Him. Repentance is the response to the
      presence of God in our lives. When the light of Christ shines into our
      souls, it reveals the darkness of sin. When this sin is revealed to us,
      we can either deny it and close our eyes and hearts and reject the light
      of Christ or we can acknowledge it and recognize that we are sinners.
      Seeing that we are sinners, we then have only two choices, to fall into
      despair and hopelessness at the seemingly insurmountable darkness that
      pervades our soul, or to repent, throwing ourselves upon the mercy and
      compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. When we repent and turn to Christ,
      He then receives us and our natural response then is one of love. This
      love acts in us, as it did in Zacchaeus, bringing great joy as well as a
      burning desire and zeal to be with Him.

      As a result of his repentance, Zacchaeus saw in his own soul the injury
      caused by his sinfulness and he set out immediately to apply the cure to
      that ill. His whole life as a tax-collector had been ruled by the
      passion of greed. In order to acquire the wealth that he had, he cheated
      and stole from others, he hardened his heart against the needs of
      others, taking care only for his own gain with no regard to the poverty
      and pain that his greed caused. Immediately upon his repentance,
      Zacchaeus demonstrated for us the cure for such sins and enslavement to
      the passions. He exercised the opposite virtue of the passion that had
      enslaved him. He was smitten with greed and so he turned to charity and
      generosity. Immediately, he gave half of all that he owned to the poor
      and from the remaining half of his possessions he returned not only what
      he had illicitly taken from others, but in accordance with the law, he
      restored what he had taken fourfold. It is obvious that in doing this he
      impoverished himself. See how he immediately engaged this powerful enemy
      of his soul – the passion of greed – by exercising the virtue of charity
      and generosity without stint.

      Now if you or I were to look into our own soul, we would easily see not
      one, but many passions pulling us this way and that. Temptations are
      constantly assailing us and urging us to give in and fall again into
      enslavement to sin. How do we resist these temptations? How do we break
      the bonds that bind us to those sins? Of course we appeal first to our
      Lord Jesus Christ to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
      unrighteousness. This He gladly does and then bestows upon us His grace
      by which we can resist the temptations and passions that assail us. How
      do we effectively use this grace? Zacchaeus shows us the way by his own
      actions. Whatever the temptation is that grips us in its claws, we then
      turn and fight against it with the opposite virtue. Are you greedy and
      acquisitive? Then battle that passion by forcing yourself to be
      charitable, generous and hospitable. Are you overly proud and vain? Then
      impose upon yourself humility considering all others to be better than
      yourself and begin to live plainly simply without fanfare. Are you
      subject to slothfulness and laziness? Force yourself to be busy all the
      time, take on new projects and force yourself to finish them on a
      schedule, do not allow yourself to rest from the moment you arise in the
      morning until the moment you lie down at night. Are you assailed by
      anger and judgment? Go out of your way to find way to exercise
      compassion and forgiveness. Whatever the passion that assails you –
      aggressively plant in yourself the opposite virtue. This works for any
      sin which you might have committed. Do you steal – then repay not only
      what you have taken but more as well. Do you lie – then admit your lie
      and be forthright with the truth. Do you condemn others – then pray for
      them and force yourself to act compassionately towards them. This is the
      way in which we can most effectively make war upon the temptations and
      passions that try to pull us away from Christ.

      Zacchaeus shows us another very important quality here in the pursuit of
      righteousness. He did not delay, he did not wait until tomorrow, but
      immediately he began his new way of life. He did not say “I will give
      half of my goods to the poor” but rather he said “I give” – he did not
      wait, but took action right away. Also he did not say “I will restore
      fourfold what I have taken” but rather “I restore fourfold …” He did not
      put it off into the future, but took action the moment the impulse to
      righteousness came to him. We can learn from this and always act
      immediately on every righteous impulse that comes to us. Do not say “I
      will pray tomorrow” but begin praying right away. Do not say, “I will
      forgive later” but forgive immediately. Do not say to the poor, “come
      back later” but give when you are asked. If we delay, we give the evil
      one a chance to suggest to us all sorts of reasons why we should not or
      cannot do as we have decided. There will be constant revisions and
      compromises to our good intentions until when the time comes to act,
      there is nothing left. The only remedy for this is to act immediately
      whenever the opportunity for righteousness arises.

      Zacchaeus shows us that the result of repentance is the desire to follow
      Christ, to separate ourselves from sin and to live anew in the
      righteousness of the Kingdom of God. He is an example of how we fight
      against temptation by practicing its opposite virtue. He shows us the
      necessity of acting upon righteous impulse immediately, not giving the
      evil one a chance to dissuade us from our course. And all this he
      accomplishes with great joy which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. As we
      look at our selves and begin to prepare for our annual Lenten struggle
      of repentance and self denial, let us keep in mind Zacchaeus and his
      example of how to effectively use the grace of God which our Lord Jesus
      Christ pours out upon us.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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