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Homily for 1/29/12 - P33 - Zacchaeus

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 19:1-10 The Sunday of Zacchaeus is often considered to be the beginning of the pre-lenten period as it always falls just as we begin our preparation for
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 28, 2012
      Luke 19:1-10

      The Sunday of Zacchaeus is often considered to be the beginning of the
      pre-lenten period as it always falls just as we begin our preparation
      for Great Lent. But this is not the case. This Sunday is not the
      beginning of our preparation for Lent, but rather it is the end of the
      whole cycle of readings which are centered on Pascha. The Sunday of
      Zacchaeus is the end of our life as it has been and the segue into our
      life as it will be. We have welcomed our Lord Jesus Christ into the
      world at the feast of His Nativity. We have been baptized with Him in
      the Jordan and the light of His presence has shone upon us. We have
      heard Him teach, we have seen His miracles and now He comes to us.

      Zacchaeus was a tax collector – a profession considered by most to be
      nothing more than a legal means of thievery, for a tax collector would
      gather not only the taxes owed to the empire, but always extra for
      himself. He grew rich at the expense of others and so was despised and
      even hated by all. Zacchaeus had heard of this Jesus Christ; he had
      heard of His teaching and the report of His miracles was known to all.
      Hearing that Jesus was coming to Jericho, Zacchaeus wanted to see this
      teacher and miracle worker for himself. Since he was small of stature,
      Zacchaeus could not see over the crowd and since he was not honored by
      the people, no one would make way for him to get to the front of the
      crowd and so Zacchaeus found a tree and climbed into its branches in
      order to at least see above the crowd. As Jesus passed by He stopped,
      looked at Zacchaeus and called to him to come down out of the tree and
      to receive Him as a guest. Zacchaeus had heard of Jesus; he had observed
      Jesus from afar; but now he would encounter Jesus face to face.

      This is the place in which we also find ourselves today. We have heard
      of Jesus; we have heard Him teach; we have seen His miracles; we have
      observed Him from afar. But now we encounter Him face to face. He has
      come to us and has called us to follow Him. The time has come to leave
      our old life behind – a life of watching Jesus from afar – and to begin
      a new life – the life of following our Lord Jesus Christ into His Kingdom.

      This is the end of our lives, and it is the beginning of a new life;
      this is the point of transition from an observer to a participant. We
      have heard of Jesus Christ, we have seen Him, we have listened to His
      teaching, but now it is time to act on all that and heed His call to
      follow Him.

      Considering the Gospel we heard, St Nicholai of Ochrid has said, “He who
      wants to see Christ must climb up in spirit high above nature, for
      Christ is greater than nature…Zacchaeus was a small man and, seized by
      the desire to see Christ, he climbed into a tall tree.

      “He who desires to meet Christ must purify himself, for he will be
      meeting with the Saint of saints, the Holy of holies. Zacchaeus was
      defiled by the love of money and lack of compassion, and so, when he was
      to meet Christ, he hurried to cleanse himself by repentance and works of

      Desiring to see Christ, we have lifted our eyes from the dust of the
      earth and have climbed in spirit as high as we can. We have seen Christ,
      and more importantly He has seen us. Not only does He see us but He has
      come to us and now stands before us waiting for us to welcome Him into
      our lives. If we wish to respond to the call of Christ to follow Him, we
      must like Zacchaeus disentangle ourselves from the love of this world
      and ending that life, embark upon a new one.

      Zacchaeus was held back by his love of money and lack of compassion, for
      he had extorted riches far beyond that which was necessary with no
      concern for the needs and suffering of those from whom he stole. And
      now, in order to follow Christ, he had to disentangle himself from the
      holds of his former sinful life and leave them behind. In order to do
      this, he undertook to practice those works of righteousness which were
      the exact opposite of his sins. He stole from others and so now he gives
      to the poor and restores not only what he stole, but with generosity
      returns that amount fourfold. In doing this, he begins the work of
      untangling himself from the chains of sin which have bound him to this
      world and to his former sinful life.

      Such a turning away from sin and setting out upon the paths of
      righteousness we call repentance. “Repentance is the abandoning of all
      false paths that have been trodden by men’s feet, and men’s thoughts and
      desires, and a return to the new path: Christ’s path.” (St Nicolai)
      Repentance is the gateway to this new life. It is marker on the path of
      salvation that Jesus Christ sets out before us. By repentance we end our
      old life – we abandon the false path of our own thoughts and desires. By
      repentance we begin our new life – the life of Christ. We have been
      lulled by our own self delusion that we are “good people”, that we are
      not as bad as those other “bad people”. We live in the delusion that we
      have not done anything really bad, that God certainly must see that we
      really mean well. Certainly God knows that we “like” Him (and by “like”
      we mean that we approve of God) so how could He not “like” us. This self
      delusion continues in us until finally we feel its pain – the awareness
      of our own worthlessness, our own hypocrisy, the futility of our own
      lives. This pain by itself leads to despair and self-destruction. But if
      this pain is accompanied by the fear of God with shame and sorrow for
      our sins then it becomes for us an agent of healing, leading us to
      repentance. This pain of self-delusion awakens us to the need to change.
      But how to change?

      And here we see the new path, the path set before us by Christ. He says
      to us, “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself, take up
      his cross and follow me.” Here is the path, the path of self denial, the
      path that begins with the ascetic labor of Great Lent. We continue on
      this path right up to Holy Week where we suffer with Christ, we ascend
      the Cross with Him and with Him die to this world. But death is no
      longer the dead end that we fear, but has been transformed by the
      Resurrection. We are raised with Christ and with this new life we follow
      Him, living according to His commandments, according to His love,
      according to the path that He has set out for us. This path leads to the
      doors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Today, with Zacchaeus, we come to the end of our old life. We stand at
      the nexus between our old life of self-delusion in the world which leads
      only to pain and suffering and self-destruction on one hand and our new
      life in Christ which leads to the heavenly Kingdom and the eternal life
      of union and communion with Him. Are you ready to leave your that old
      life behind? Are you ready to follow Christ? Today is the end of the
      life of sin, today is the end of the life of watching Christ from afar.
      Today is the day that we step out of that life and encounter Jesus
      Christ face to face. We pass through the threshold that leads into our
      new life – the life we begin by repentance. When we repent, we begin
      disentangling ourselves from the passions and sins that have wrapped us
      in their chains. These chains hold us back, they prevent us from
      following Christ. But repentance is the key that unlocks those chains
      and that cuts the knots the bind us. Repentance is the end of life as it
      has been and opens the door to life as it will be – the new life in Christ.

      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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