November 22, 2023
by Joan Blandin Howard
Creighton University - retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

The Memorial of Saint Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr
Lectionary: 499

2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31
Psalms 17:1bcd, 5-6, 8b and 15
Luke 19:11-28

Praying Ordinary Time

St. Cecilia

This is another reflection for this day from the archives.

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Praying Advent 2023-24

Today’s gospel is about the Chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, a “rich” man.  In Matthew’s gospel we hear about the rich young man who approached Jesus with the question about what he should do in order to be saved.  Two rich men, two encounters with Jesus.

The unnamed rich young man proudly claimed to have observed the commandments since his youth and wanted to know “what (more) must I do to inherit eternal life.  Apparently, he expected a pat on the back for a life well lived. Jesus answered, “You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor…then come follow me”.  At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector enthusiastically “was seeking to see Jesus.” 

The tone surrounding the unnamed rich young man is flat.  He had always done what was required.  He had lived by the law. However, there is no joy in his encounter with Jesus and he goes away sad.

Zacchaeus is excited and joyful. Picture this short man running and jumping up and down like a child at the back of the crowds trying to get a glimpse of Jesus. He scrambled up a tree in hopes of getting a good view and maybe even hearing what Jesus is saying.  Maybe!! Here comes the surprise of the day.  Jesus looking up into the tree, yells “Zacchaeus, I want to have dinner at your house!”  Who!? Me?! Imagine Zacchaeus nearly falling out of the tree and without hesitation, “received him with joy.”

Two wealthy men. Both wanting to hear what Jesus had to say. One received Jesus and his message with joy; the other went away sad. The difference?  The unnamed rich young man could not part with his possessions.  He did not anticipate that Jesus would ask this of him after all the good he had done. Zacchaeus could not get out of the tree fast enough!  He received Jesus with joy and offered to give half his possessions to the poor.

These readings are about God’s unique intimate invitation to each one of us.  The invitation to live beyond the letter of the law – accept challenge and risk and let my life overflow in freedom, joy, mercy and compassion. To live the law of love, beyond my comfort zone.  It is not about giving to the poor per se, but of letting go of whatever restricts me from genuine love, of following Jesus.

As with Zacchaeus and the young man, I must first recognize my attachments, addictions, limitations.  What do I hold on to? What holds me?  Drugs, alcohol, sex, money, possessions, fear of failure, fear of success, pride, self-image, friends and family?

Like Zacchaeus and the young man, I really do want to hear what Jesus is saying; I really do want to follow Jesus, but maybe I am just not sure where and how to begin.

What is the desire deep in my heart?  What is it that fills me with peace, joy and excitement even a bit of challenge and risk?  What is the longing that will not go away?  No matter how big or small, trivial or important, what am I being invited to and what is holding me back? 

The good news:  Jesus gave his full attention to each of these men. Jesus is doing the same for me.  Jesus is inviting, faithful and patient.  Dear Lord, that I may not turn away in sadness but joyfully fall out of the tree landing at your feet!!

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