Zaccheus, Ortiz and Jesus

Homily for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

On a weekend of duck-boats and the rolling rally,
with folks around here still flying high
over the Red Sox winning the World Series,
it falls to me to try help you understand
why a story about a short man who climbed a tree 2,000 years ago
should make a difference in your life.

Zaccheus – Ortiz…

6’ 4” Big Papi:
Red Sox DH and World Series MVP

or Zaccheus, once described as
“a sawed-off little social disaster with a crooked job
and a big bank account
-- but a guy Jesus wanted to hang out with anyway.” *

Ortiz – Jesus…

You might want to be careful about your choice here
because chances are
Big Papi’s never gonna ask to come visit your house or mine.

But there’s not a day in the week, not a minute in any day
when Jesus isn’t asking to hang out with every one of us.

Actually, coming to church on Sunday
is something like Zaccheus climbing that sycamore tree in the gospel.

We come to church to get a better look at Jesus.

Whether we’re short or tall,
there are plenty of things in the course of the week
that might keep Jesus out of our line of sight.

It’s even possible that sometimes - we plan it that way,
but there’s not a single moment in the week
when Jesus ever loses sight of you and me

We climb the tree, we come to church and hear the Lord speak.

And every week Jesus looks up at you and me and calls out,
 “You!  Yes, you!
Come down quickly because today I want to stay at your house!”

It’s our “Zaccheus moment.”

It’s the moment when I need to do some inspecting
to see if my house needs a little cleaning
before I’m ready to welcome the Lord's visit.

Zaccheus knew his house was a mess,
(cluttered with his greed and his cheating the poor)
but his desire for Jesus to come and visit
moves him to change his ways – on the spot!

That’s the Zaccheus moment and we all experience it in different ways.

What is there in my home, in the home of my heart – and in yours -
what’s there that needs some dusting or sweeping or rearranging -
or throwing out altogether -- to be ready for a visit from Jesus?

In today’s first reading,
we’re reminded of how much God loves us, that indeed,
God loves each of us just as he made us to be.
We heard:
“O Lord, you love all things that are; 
you loathe nothing you have made;
for what you hated, you would never have fashioned.”

But what have I done in my life, what have you done in yours
with what the Lord gave us, with how the Lord made us?

Jesus loved Zaccheus
but certainly he didn’t love his greed and his cheating the poor.

And Zaccheus knew this, he intuited this.

In the same way, Jesus loves every one of us,
but there are likely things about each of us
that the Lord doesn’t love.

Do we, like Zaccheus, intuit what might be the things in our lives
in need of some house cleaning?

And if my response to that is,
“Well, no – I really can’t think of anything…”
then either I’m actually perfect (and that’s doubtful)
or I’ve conned myself into thinking, into believing,
that my relationship with God right now
is just as good as it needs to be.

Of course the good news is that even if I’m that deluded,
Jesus still offers to hang out with me,
still wants to come visit the house of my heart,
still invites me to a change of heart.

The question is, what will I do with my “Zaccheus moment?”

So maybe the story of a short man 
who climbed a tree some 2,000 years ago
does have something to say to us today, in this World Series week.

If the Red Sox duck boats had rolled down Main Street in Concord
I suspect that most of us would have gladly scrambled for a better view.

But it’s not Big Papi who’s coming through town, it's Jesus.

And to prove he wants to go home with each of us today,
he invites us to sit down at table here, with him, in his house
and to get to know him better, intimately.

He offers to feed us with his life, first offered on the Cross
and now offered to us in communion with him in the Eucharist.

Right here, he wants to visit the houses of our hearts
and to stay with us, to go home with us.

May the sacrament we celebrate and receive give us the courage
to empty our hearts of what has no business being there
and to welcome in the divinely designated, most valuable guest
who will ever knock on our doors.

*(Frederick Buechner)


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