2 Maccabees 6:18-31
"Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." Luke 19:5
When was the last time you had an unexpected visitor drop in on you? I’m not talking about those door-to-door solicitors who come knocking on our doors for all kinds of reasons. From the Girl Scout selling cookies to religious missionaries to the occasional Politician who knock on our door, we find it easy to keep them standing on the outside. Unexpected visitors are not usually welcomed into our homes with open arms.
Over the years as a priest and a Passionist, I have had the opportunity to knock on a few doors, to gather parish census information or to invite people to be more committed Catholics. In my early years, I was part of a Passionist parish mission program that lasted for four months. One goal of these parish missions was to have all of the parishioners visited by someone representing the parish mission team. We priests often went on these neighborhood visits and knocked on doors. The response was overwhelming. Most parishioners welcomed our visit, many of them even opened their doors and served us coffee and cookies. As we sat and chatted, they would open up and share with us their pains and sorrows, their challenges and problems and their hopes and dreams. While we were not there to offer the parishioners the sacrament of penance, so many began to share with us the sense of regret for having made wrong decisions and living wasted lives. For some, this was the first step towards turning their life around.
The gospel for today’s Mass strikes me as one of those moments for Zacchaeus, a public sinner in the city of Jericho. Whatever Zacchaeus’ motivation was for seeing Jesus on that particular day, he never expected to hear Jesus invite himself into his home. Instead of being taken aback by this bold move on Jesus’ part, Zaccheaus was filled with joy and began taking his first steps toward becoming right with God and his community. He made a public announcement of how he was to make restitution for all the wrong-doing he had done in his life.
I think about the times when I have not allowed Jesus to come into my home and my heart. I also think about the times when I have resisted representatives of Jesus when they come to me, giving me good advice, helping me make good decisions, challenging me when I have made wrong and hurtful choices. Many times, I do not respond with joy, I do not open my door to them and some times, I find reasons why I did what I did and said what I said.
What a timely scripture this is for us. Tragedies call us to be generous to those in need, the path to peace calls us to give up weapons and attitudes of violence, the poor are becoming poorer because of greed and an unwillingness to share what God has given us as stewards. Is not Jesus standing at our door? Is He not calling us to share what we have with those in need? Are we courageous enough to do what is right before God and our community?
God, give us the courage to welcome you into our hearts and homes. Help us make restitution for our wrong-doing. Grant us a loving, caring heart!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Chicago, Illinois.