Bulletin 214 - January 27, 2003/February 9, 2003
January 27, 2003/February 9, 2003
He(Theodore of Pherme) also said, "In these days many take their rest before God gives it to them."
Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was short of stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house' So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.' Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
The Holy Gospel message being read today is being read in Orthodox Churches around the world. Today is a time of readiness. This is a time to get our lives in order, a time to pay careful attention to the condition of our souls.
Zacchaeus came to his senses. Zacchaeus went to great lengths to see Jesus Christ. He climbed a tree to ensure he had a view of Jesus Christ. Zacchaeus ran to be ahead of the crowd to get a good view.
How many of us make an extra effort to draw near to Jesus Christ? How many of us run with great speed and expend the energy to climb to the heights necessary to see God?
Consider the monasteries on Holy Mount Athos. Consider the monasteries at Meteora. Consider St.Catherine's monastery at Sinai. Consider the Serbian monastery Djurdjevi Stupovi.
Great effort has gone into building these monastery structures for the worship of God. The believing builders were willing to go to great lengths to come to God in prayer and worship.
Jesus came to be with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully. There is great joy in Jesus Christ. If we do not sense the joy in Christ, perhaps we must examine ourselves more carefully. Perhaps sin is keeping us from the joy in Christ.
Zacchaeus gave to the poor. He restored four times over to those he had taken from improperly. Zacchaeus wanted to do what was right. Zacchaeus' actions were noticed by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Blessed Theophylact likened Zacchaeus to Abraham. Blessed Theopylact said "For, like Abraham, he (Zacchaeus) also goes out of his land and out of his kinship with his former wickedness and out of the house of his father (Gen.12:1), meaning he comes out of his old self and rejects his former condition.
When one makes a commitment to follow Jesus Christ, one must be careful to be true to Christ and remain firm and faithful in the commitment. Jesus said to
Each baptized person has made a serious commitment to follow Jesus Christ. The commitment made at Holy Baptism is expected to be honored throughout life. Great care and attention is given by the Church when the Sacrament of Holy Baptism takes place.
Great honor is bestowed upon the newly baptized person. A completely new identity is established at Holy Baptism. At Holy Chrismation, the person is sealed with the Gift of the Holy Spirit.
The world becomes different each time a person is baptized. Christ is manifested in the Holy Sacrament of Baptism. The newly baptized person "puts on Christ."
We do well when we take time to go back periodically and read and reread the content of the Service of Holy Baptism and Chrismation. Holy Baptism is a marking point in the life of each Orthodox Christian.
With Zacchaeus Sunday upon us, it is time to renew our seriousness about our life in Christ. It is time for us to make the extra effort to draw closer to Christ, to exert ourselves in climbing to the heights to experience God.
We must work to put sin behind us. We must pray. We must fast. We must have a repentant heart. The present Gospel tells us Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus will help us if we come to Him in faith and with a sincere heart.
If we learn from Zacchaeus and do what Zacchaeus did to set his life in order, perhaps we will experience the fullness of joy in Christ.
Blessed Theophylact is clear in saying: "If a man repents and follows a path that is opposite his former way of wickedness, he heals his former sins through the four virtues (courage, prudence, righteousness, and self-control), and thus he receives salvation and is called a son of Abraham."
We may not consider ourselves sinners. To know the truth about ourselves, let us compare our lives, our thoughts, our actions with the teachings and life of Christ as described in the Holy Scriptures.
Let us read carefully the words of Christ and ponder them in our hearts. Let us read carefully the words of the Evangelists Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Let us read carefully the words of the Holy Apostle Paul.
Christ forgives us of our sins but we must first be serious about living the life in Christ and repenting. Zacchaeus Sunday has much to teach us. We have much to learn.