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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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