Trick or treat!
Yep – it’s the eve of All Saint’s Day. Halloween. Who do you think will come knocking at your door tonight?
Today’s Gospel is part of those wonderful moments when Jesus speaks in parables about the Kingdom of God, making the concept more understandable for our mortal, limited minds. In this case, he speaks about the Mustard Seed and the Yeast. A reflection I wrote in July is based on this exact same message (which you can access by clicking this link right here ).
But today, being All Hallows Eve, I’ve been thinking a lot about who our trick-or-treaters are. Who it is that knocks on our doors? People from all walks of life, children primarily, who are filled with wonder and excitement at being someone or something else. Dressing up, for me, was about putting on my fantasy of who I wanted to be… who I wished I was. Except that year I went as a Hot Dog. I don’t want to be a Hot Dog.
Is it too late to be who God wants me to be?
And this got me thinking about Zacchaeus, who climbed a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus.
I remember the last time I climbed a tree. It was in 1984, after my 8th Grade graduation at Holy Family in South Pasadena. Everyone was gathered around the parking lot and celebrating all the new graduates. I couldn’t see where my friends and family went, so I climbed up this huge tree so I could get a better view in hopes I’d find my way to them. When I got high enough I realized that, in my enthusiasm and excitement, I’d neglected to think about how far up I was, or how I’d get down. I really went “out on a limb.” Well, I found the way to both safety and my family, and (thank God), the tree didn’t drop me. The Lullaby which includes the text “When the bow breaks” still makes me shudder.
Zacchaeus also really went out on a limb to see Jesus. Just to grab a peek at the great Holy Man. Zacchaeus, the hated tax collector, did what he had to do in order to find his way to Jesus.
But here’s the thing – Jesus was waiting for him. Jesus called out, “Zacchaeus, come…” High in a tree, at a distance, Jesus reaches out to a “sinner,” calling him. And the people are all a-twitter when Jesus goes to stay at the house of this sinner, but he says “Today, salvation has come to this house.”
In a very strong way, this reminds me of a prayer we recite at every Eucharist:
“O Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
What does this have to do with Halloween? Well, I guess Jesus is the really ultimate Trick-or-Treater… He knocks on our door. Always. Not looking for our sweetness or our “candy,” but for us to open the door and grant him passage to our soul. Our brokenness, our failure, our hurt, our sin – he calls us down from our shaky, unstable tree-limb. “(I have) come to seek, and save what was lost.”
You know, that old tree is still down at Holy Family…
Maybe it’s time to go out on a limb again so I can hear the voice of Jesus say “Come…”
Dear God, thank you for the gift of your never-ending love, your knock on my door.
Please grant the grace of your mercy to me, a sinner, looking to change. Amen.
Paul Puccinelli is Director of Liturgy & Music at St. Rita Parish in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the retreat team at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center.