My father would end discussions, (we were not allowed arguments), with this picturesque thought, “When I get done, you’ll be singing a different tune.” We were not aware that we had been singing any tune, but we got the message.
We might hear a melody in the morning and find ourselves humming it throughout the rest of the day. It echoes or re-sounds in our minds and hearts. Often we leave church with a hymn floating around in our minds. Even if we are not very good singers, we at least hear it in the beautiful voices of the choir and sometimes the congregation too.
God means to change our tunes by the Word and the graces of the Sacraments. We prepare to walk into church having been singing all kinds of inner music. We prepare also to walk out of church singing a different tune: more gentle, receptive, available for mystery, and even freer to sing right out loud from our deepest person.
As the old Quaker hymn puts it, “How can I keep from singing.” What might keep me from singing is not listening to the Choir Director Who desires to change our tune.
The Book of Wisdom, from which our First Reading is taken for this liturgy, relates, at times poetically, the history of God’s caring for Israel. It re-presents various images of God and how Israel responded or not to God’s person. The Exodus is the one single event by which God identified Israel as the chosen, the saved, the freed, and the beloved.
In the verses immediately before those we hear today, God’s power over Egypt during the Exodus is recalled. The plagues are reviewed as signs of God’s particular disfavor. God punished, but did not destroy Egypt.
Our reading is a celebration of why God allowed Egypt to endure as well as Israel, who has sinned often against the Saving, Loving God. God is pictured as loving all creation as it is, and as it will be in time. All creation is tiny, like a drop of dew, but God loves it all and those all who dwell there in.
Our reading is a poem contrasting the small size of the universe with the large size of God creative mercy. God does not run out of time or love for all that has been created. It has been fashioned through that same infinite love, “for your imperishable spirit is in all things.”
There is this phrase which describes shame, “face saving” or “losing face”. Often when we are ashamed of ourselves for making a silly mistake we will cover our face with our hands, hiding our face so nobody will see us. Shame is a reaction to experiencing a wish we were not who we are.
In today’s Gospel we hear of a great conversion story. Zachaeus is a Jew who has been collecting taxes for the hated Roman imperial power and is very rich. He is short and so takes a position up in a tree to just catch a sight of Jesus, that’s all, for Jesus was to pass that way. The scene is set.
Jesus catches sight of Zachaeus, sees his face, and obviously, knows who he is and has been. Perhaps the little treed man sees Jesus looking up at him and knows that He knows. He hides his face behind a mask of leaves, but Jesus says the words of shameless honoring. He invites Zachaeus to come down and then invites Himself in; into the very house of Zachaeus. Jesus unmasked him and in a sense, unmasks Jesus Himself by announcing that “Today I must stay at your house.” For Jesus, “today” is every day and His desire to honor us is permanent and intimate.
Of course there were present those who grumbled and complained that Jesus was doing what Jesus came to do. Luke echoes here what the angels sang to the shepherds near Bethlehem, “Today salvation has come to this house.” As with the “coin”, the “sheep” and the “Wayward son”, this man was lost to himself and now is found.
Zachaeus then does the honorable Lukean thing. He turns to his wealth which once was his honor and pledges to distribute half of it to the poor. It presents the perfect picture of how conversion follows encounter, change results from intimacy. Zachaeus listens to Jesus. Jesus listens to the grumblers and knows they have gotten the picture clearly.
Today in our part of the world is a celebration of the eve before the celebration of the Feast of all Saints. Holy Eve or Halloween is a time for dressing up in various disguises and going from door to door, frightening people by their masks and the threat, “Trick or treat.”
Tomorrow the masks and costumes will be taken off and maybe that is an exact definition of what a “saint” is. Zacchaeus was a Jew, but had purchased a false identity - a mask - a pretense, and he frightened others and diminished himself. Jesus passed that way, but did not pass up an opportunity to extend life, love, recovery and truth to this true “son of Abraham”.
Each day is the “today” of Jesus’ inviting Himself into our lives. Each day is the encounter with our truth, because Jesus invites us out of our false pretendings and back into our graced space. Zacchaeus, after taking off his costume had to live his truth amidst those who knew his former lie. Many saints since him, including Paul, Augustine and Ignatius to mention three, lived saintly lives, because they had been met up in their personal trees of Halloweening.
When we gather at the Table of the Lord, it becomes our Table of Welcome. Jesus welcomes us back from whatever distance we have wandered. He welcomes us back to the relationship with His sisters and brothers who may have been trying on costumes themselves. Jesus welcomes us back to who we really are in God’s eyes and invites us to see ourselves anew and live that newness. Each time we gather then we are welcomed into the Communion of Saints. We know where we have placed our former costumes and we can be tempted to reach for them. Jesus keeps passing along, but not passing us bye. The Eucharist makes every day, all days, Saints Day. Being a saint is not frightening nor do they threaten with “tricks”, but live lives as blessed “treats”.
“Lord, you will show me the path of life and fill me with joy in your presence.” Ps. 16
Collaborative Ministry Office Guestbook