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Bible Reflections View Comments

Go Climb a Tree!
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, November 3, 2013
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The story of Zacchaeus is a favorite in illustrated children’s Bibles and Sunday school coloring sheets. No surprise there. There are two things children understand: the lure of climbing trees and being too short to see anything in a crowd except the kneecaps of surrounding adults.

Luke tells us that Zacchaeus is short. It’s easy to imagine a normally dignified businessman puffing and struggling to run along after Jesus and haul himself into a tree. But Zacchaeus was more than a celebrity chaser, hoping for a better glimpse of someone famous coming through town.

Part of what makes this such a great story is that Zacchaeus is incredibly determined to see Jesus. Zacchaeus knows he’s going to have to make an extra effort. He runs ahead of the crowd. He finds a tree to climb “in order to see Jesus.” He knows his limitations, and he’s not willing to let minor obstacles stand in his way.

Other people may have given up, may have made an excuse—the crowd is too large, it’s too late in the day, I have other work to do—and missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Not Zacchaeus. He was willing to do whatever he had to do, with little care for what people would think of him.

Determination is a value we would do well to cultivate. Too often we let our dreams and goals slip away because the obstacles seem too great. Sometimes the problem is that we don’t really know what we want. This is where Zacchaeus can serve as a model. He knows what he wants. He knows what he needs to do to get it.

Other times, we run into roadblocks on the way to where we want to go, and getting around them seems too difficult, too complicated, too challenging. We let other people convince us that what we want isn’t worth that much effort.

Like Zacchaeus finding a tree to raise himself above the heads of the crowd, we need to find ways to go after those things we really want, the things that will help us see Jesus, the things that will ensure we’re the kind of person Jesus will see. Once Zacchaeus was up in the tree, Jesus had no trouble picking him out from the crowd.

In a perfect world, Zacchaeus would have had no need to climb a tree. The people in the crowd would have helped him to the front or raised him on their shoulders so he could see. In a very real way, this is what Zacchaeus is learning to do when he tells Jesus that he’s going to give half his possessions to the poor and repay anyone he’s short-changed in the past. Even though he had to make an extra effort to see Jesus, he’s going to do what he can to help other people along the way.

We strive after many things in the course of our lives. Some are worth the effort involved; others are not. Today’s Gospel raises the question of whether we go after the things of God with the same determination that we apply to other goals in our lives. Clearly Zacchaeus had been quite successful in his business life. That may have given him the determination he needed to make a significant change upon meeting Jesus.

St. Paul prays that God will make the Thessalonians (and us) “worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith....” People like Zacchaeus can help us to make that effort— maybe starting today.



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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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