January 26, 2020

Sermon – Zaccheus Sunday 2020

PASTORAL SERMON
The Fifteenth Sunday of Luke
By V. Rev. Timothy Baclig, January 26, 2020
Like in the days of Zacchaeus, today some people have a stigma attached to
their profession, especially if persons are known not to be honest. Zacchaeus,
mentioned in this morning’s Gospel, was a tax collector for the hated Roman state
that practiced oppressive taxation during the times of Jesus. As a tax collector
Zacchaeus was regarded by his fellow Jews to be a great sinner and a man
completely given over to worldly values. He was a man of the harsh realities of
the world—ruthless competition for wealth, exploitation of every opportunity, the
aggressive pursuit of selfish interests. Religion was not his thing.
But for some reason Zacchaeus was curious and interested in what he had
heard about Jesus. It was not mere curiosity but the first stirrings of faith that
made him risk embarrassment by climbing a tree, being a short man, in order to see Jesus as he passed through Jericho. Zacchaeus was obviously a restless man in
search of something.
There are people today, who we might think, are not in the least interested in matters of faith and religion. We might think that they are not open minded or
honest with themselves. It might help us as Christians to also have the right attitude in encountering others in matters of faith; to be openminded and be honest with ourselves. The older I get, the more I realize that everyone has choices and
must be responsible for making choices. Also, that you and I are really not in
control of things nor we can be in control of others. That is perhaps one of the
things that pains many parents: the hard truth that our children become adults; that they really have a mind that begins to think for themselves.
At the end of today’s Gospel we hear Jesus say to Zacchaeus, “...this man,
too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was
lost.” In other words, Zacchaeus was not a hopeless case! He was not doomed to
hell!
There was definitely something about Zacchaeus’ conscience that prompted
him to seek, to see and to hear Jesus. And because of this desire, God brought
about a wonderful change in Zacchaeus, an astonishing liberation from his old self,
his previous ways of thinking and the values and life pattern of a tax collector of
that time.
We should notice that it was outside of the Synagogue and away from the temple where Jesus encountered Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus probably had no intention of going to the Synagogue or Temple, and even if he did, the religious rules of his time would not have allowed him to enter. But the day that Jesus spoke in the city
of Jericho (a town that had a high population of priests); Zacchaeus went out of his
way to be amidst the crowd.
The Gospel provides countless examples of how Christ engaged others and
met them where they were. Today’s Gospel lesson is a perfect example among
many others: The Samaritan woman, Nicodemus, the adulterous woman, Simon
Peter, and the list goes on and on. Just take time to read all of the conversations
recorded in the gospels and you will find that in each instance it was a face-to-face
conversation.
Our Archdiocese theme for our Conferences this year, what all of our
children will be expressing themselves in creative ways, studying and writing and
speaking about is taken from St. John’s Gospel, chapter three, verse seventeen:
“For God did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world
through Him might be saved.” It is a verse that immediately follows John 3:16 -
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever
believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

There was a time when all we had was a land-line telephone (and that was
not very long ago!). Then came computers and e-mails, then came smart phones,
then, texting, twitter then, FaceBook, even Skype and FaceTime or Zoom. There
are many more ways for you and I to avoid a personal face-to-face conversation
today. With every technological advances there are advantages and disadvantages.
The means by which we form, develop and maintain relationships must be re-
examined with honesty. We have resorted to all of these avenues and devices
because you and I are in need of real relationships. God has always made Himself
available to us. We hear in our hymnology: “The Lord is God and has revealed
Himself to us…” However, today, people are receiving all kinds of distorted
images and messages of who God really is. And so there is great skepticism and
cynicism about God and religion. Do you know why? The distortion, the
confusion, the fog of our day is not a lack of faith. There are demonstrations of
people with a great deal of faith—often, those who are strong willed, defiant,
whether with good or bad intentions; there are many examples of people who have
faith and exercise faith, courage, bravery, fortitude, who are consistent, who are
strong. You know what I am saying. The problem is that when people today talk
and speak about God there is a great deal of hypocrisy and dishonesty; poor examples of living lives consistent with what they say they believe. And that, dear
brothers and sisters, is a great problem.
St. Kyril writes concerning today’s Gospel lesson: Zacchaeus was chief of
tax collectors, a man entirely (abandoned) given to covetousness [greed] … But he did not continue among their number... He sought to see [Jesus], but the multitude

prevented him. St. Kyril goes on to say that it was not so much the people that had
prevented him from seeing Jesus, as it was his sins. He was of [small] stature, [not
only a matter of his size], but also spiritually. Zacchaeus could, in no other say see
Jesus, unless he was raised up from the earth. St. Kyril then comments: ...for in no
other way can a man see Christ and believe in Him, except by mounting up into the
sycamore [tree], by rendering [by turning over the] foolish [those things] which are
upon earth…. St. Kyril goes on to be specific, naming: fornication, uncleanness,
dishonesty, extortion, and so forth.
The same is true for any of us whose lives are so preoccupied with our
concerns of this world. The Divine Liturgy for us is a time for “laying aside all
worldly cares” as we prepare in our worship to sing in the Cherubic Hymn. It is not for the purpose of escaping the realities of our life, but to help us in gaining a clear perspective on life – a life, that is for us eternal life that begins here and now,
in the dark and sinful world that we temporarily reside.
The radical transformation in Zacchaeus’ life was the love of God working
through Christ. Jesus’ personal presence and divine love touched Zacchaeus and
completed changed him. You may recall that it was Simon Peter who said in the
Lord’s presence: “Lord, I am a sinful man!” The conversion power of God’s love
by Jesus’ words and by his presence transformed Zacchaeus into a new, free and joyful man. I again want to point out to us that it was not in the Synagogue or
around the Temple where Zacchaeus’ life was changed but by the personal
encounter that Zacchaeus had by seeking, and by Jesus’ personal visit to Zacchaeus’ home.
One of the reasons why my visitation with you in your home, and for each of
us to spend time with each other is so important is because we need to experience kinonia [a spiritual bond of fellowship] – something that extends our time together
from corporate worship, “social fellowship,” and even business meetings. It is
essential that we take the time to meet personally, to get to know each other, to
pray together, and to support one another more than the time we share together in
church on Sundays. It is my sincere hope that in the course of this New Year we
will gain much from learning from each other in building a community that strengthens us for fulfilling God’s purposes.

Prayer
O Christ, our God, visit us today, that we like Zacchaeus may be transformed in
mind, heart and soul. May we lay aside all worldly cares that we may receive You
– the King of all. For Thou art our help, our Stronghold, and our Salvation and to
Thee do we ascribe glory, together with Thy Father who is unoriginate, and Thine
All-Holy, good, and Life-giving Spirit; now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

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