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2017-01-22 Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Late but full of determination, humility, and generosity. AUDIO RECORDING INCLUDED.

January 22, 2017. Homily. Father François Beyrouti.
Late but full of determination, humility, and generosity.

Gospel: Luke 19:1-10. 15th Sunday of Holy Cross.
At that time as Jesus was passing through Jericho, behold there was a man named Zacchaeus; and he was a leading publican, and he was rich.  And he was trying to see Jesus, to find out who he was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature.  So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was going to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay in your house today.” And he made haste and came down, and welcomed him joyfully.  And upon seeing it, all began to murmur, saying, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  But Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, I give one-half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he, too, is the son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

A few weeks ago I was invited to a dinner with a few other people. The family who invited me told me to come at 7:00 p.m. As I was getting closer to the house I ended up taking the wrong exit and was worried that I’d be late. I called the family and told them I’m going to be around 10 minutes late. I don’t like to arrive late so I apologized to them when I walked in, but they said: “Father don’t worry. You’re the only one here.” The first person after me arrived at 7:30 p.m. and some arrived at 8:00 p.m. 

Even when people arrive late, dinners and gatherings are exciting. That is why there are so many stories about Jesus being invited to people’s houses, about food, and about gatherings?

Jesus’s first miracle was to turn water into wine. The Gospels also tell us about two multiplication miracles: one where Jesus fed over 4000 people (Mt 15:32-16:10 and Mk 8:1-9) and the other where Jesus fed over 5000 people (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17 and John 6:5-15).

And yes, even when Jesus was having dinner or speaking there were people who arrived late. One time some people were so late that there was no more room for them in the house and they couldn’t get in to see Jesus. The Gospel of Mark tells us: “When they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay” (Mark 2:4. See also Luke 5:17-20).

Today’s Gospel is also a humorous one about a named Zacchaeus who arrived late and could not see Jesus because of the crowd and his height.

It’s normal for children to climb up trees but in today’s Gospel Jesus sees a wealthy, elderly, and well known known man sitting on a tree waiting for Jesus to pass by.

Jesus would have known that Zacchaeus was hated by the crowds because he was a tax collector, but instead of rejecting him, Jesus proudly says in front of everyone: “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).

Although those in the crowd complained that Jesus “has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner,” Jesus was nonetheless proud to enter into the house of Zacchaeus.

This is a beautiful Gospel on many ways. First it shows us the intensity of Zacchaeus who said to himself “neither the crowds, nor my height, nor my reputation will stop me from seeing Jesus.”

Zacchaeus teaches us a determination that we sometimes lack. Instead of saying: “Nothing will stop me from setting time aside to thank God,” we too often make excuses as to why we don’t have enough time to pray or read the Bible. Yes, life is busy but life has always been busy. The question is not whether we are busy but whether we are too busy to stop and say “thank you” to God. Jesus wants to come into our house and into our lives, do we have time to welcome Him?

In addition to determination we can also learn humility from Zacchaeus, a wealthy public figure, who despite these climbed up a tree and accepted to be humiliated by the crowds to see Jesus.

Unfortunately some people have done so well in their life they think they do not need God. Some feel “Why do you need God when you have everything?” Actually, you need to thank God because you have everything.

Someone once told me “Religion is for poor people.” Actually, religion is for all people regardless of race or social status because despite how abandoned we feel God is always with us and regardless of how successful and how big think we are, we are actually so small compared to the universe that God has created.

David Letterman once interviewed a man who as at the bottom of the Forbes billionaire list. He showed him the list and jokingly said “The richest man in the world has 60-70 billion dollars and you only have 2 or 3 billion. Don’t you feel a little insignificant?”

Sometimes we think we are too important and sometimes we feel we are too insignificant. Neither of these are true because our importance or significance is not determined by our job, our bank account, or our social status but on how grateful we are before God.

Jesus did not go to the home of Zacchaeus because he was wealthier than everyone else, but because he was willing to put aside his public image and his wealth to humble himself before Jesus.

The third important lesson we can learn from Zacchaeus is that he is generous. The joy he had in his heart when he saw Jesus was greater than the joy he had because of his worldly possessions. Zacchaeus tells Jesus: “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8).

Whatever joy we feel because of the things we have is so small compared to the feeling we have when we help others because we are grateful for what we have. There is no relationship between the amount of money we have and our level of humanity but there is a relationship between what we do with what we have and our level of humanity.

There is a bumper sticker that says “He who dies with the most toys wins.” But, there is a better bumper sticker that says “He who had the most toys still died.”

Today’s Gospel starts off in a humorous way with an elderly, wealthy, public figure who arrives late, climbs up a tree, and is ridiculed by the crowd. Then, the story of Zacchaeus ends up by teaching us a lesson about his determination to see Jesus, his humility in front of everyone, and his generous heart.

Regardless of how old we are, regardless of who we are, regardless of what we have done, Jesus calls us today to learn from the determination, humility, and generosity of Zacchaeus.

Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
Church: 714-985-1710

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24


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