Posted by: Fr Chris | January 15, 2010

Zacchaeus Sunday 2010

Here we are just closing out the season of Christmas on January 6 for most American Catholics, and specifically the octave of the Theophany, or Baptism of the Lord, on January 14. This is one of the biggest feasts in the Byzantine calendar, and liturgically is ranked higher than Christmas, since at the Baptism not only does St John “humbly step aside” as one hymn says, but the Holy Trinity is now revealed to mankind, clearly, in the Person of Jesus, the Descent of the Spirit “like a dove” and the voice of the source of all life, the Father.

And yet now we jump into the preparation for Great Lent! Next Sunday, 17 January, is Zacchaeus Sunday. With this Gospel story of the short tax collector whose conscience finally comes to full fruition by hearing the sweet invitation of Jesus “I mean to dine at thy house today”, we begin our preparation for Lent seeking the virtue of humility.

The tax collector of course was despised in Palestine, as a traitor to his people by collaborating with the Romans and stealing from the Jews. Such a man, the famous publican whom we will shortly encounter in another Sunday, had little hope for salvation. But it is to this short publican who has cast aside all traditional dignity by climbing into the branches of the sycamore ( a tree which represented wild impulses to the Jews), that Jesus offers full forgiveness, reconciliation, and reincorporation into the People of Israel.

The Epistle today came from 1 Peter, with that marvelous verse of how we are now a chosen people, a holy nation, a royal priesthood. Let us boldly reclaim that for ourselves while approaching God in all humility, seeking to be cleansed and healed.

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