Scripture: 1st Reading: 2Maccabees6,18-31; Resp. Psalm: Ps3,2-7; Gosp. Accl.: 1Jn4,10; Gospel: Lk19,1-10
The word of God in the books of Maccabees are meant to teach us about the fundamental importance of fidelity to God; faith in Him; abhorrence of pagan practises that run contrary to the worship of the living and true God; the power of witnessing and steadfastness to God even in the face of threats to one's life. The word teaches the value of giving examples to those of the younger generation, of not compromising one's faith because of the office one holds or the bloated sense of self importance one ascribes to himself.
Many people today find witnessing difficult, especially when they are in high office. As a result, their lives are full of compromises and pretence. They are neither here nor there. The place where they are supposed to offer credible witnessing turns out to be the place where the Holy name of God is brought into disrepute as a result of their actions and inaction. The example of the aged Eleazar in today's first reading should be a challenge and a model for every believer to emulate. Eleazar preferred to witness to his faith even till death.
The gospel passage teaches us about the encounter of our Lord with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was also a faithful man to the wrong things in life. He was faithful to money, collaboration with an oppressive foreign dominator, extortion, ill gotten wealth and privileges. This is why Zacchaeus was a strange man. As a tax collector and one that was hated as a collaborator of an oppressive and offensive foreign dominating power, he had no business being religious. This is because the kind of profession he engaged in had set him apart as a man to be hated, despised and loathed. He was thus not one to respond to God's call in any way and under any guise. His wealth, which he in all probability acquired in shady circumstances, also would have been an obstacle.
In Jewish culture, religion and tradition, there was always boundary between the ritually clean and unclean. Zaccheus represented the world of the ritually unclean because of the kind of employment he was engaged in as a tax collector or consultant. By engaging Zacchaeus, our Lord, who was ritually clean, was crossing the boundary and risking being labelled unclean and ritually impure. But our Lord had other ideas beyond the purely legalistic interpretation of the law. Our Lord saw into the heart of Zacchaeus a yearning for a new lease of life and that was enough to move Him to action.
We could see Zacchaeus' readiness to have a change of life in his claim that he gives half of his goods to the poor and that if he had defrauded any one, he restored it fourfold. Zacchaeus was either expressing these two actions as a habitual one he had always engaged in or expressing an action he would carry out in the future. In either of the two possibilities, it was clear that this man was ready to embrace the salvation brought by our Lord.
In consequence, our Lord publicly declared that salvation had come to the house of Zacchaeus that day. The radical change and acceptance of the presence of Jesus and what He represented brought salvation to the house of the wealthy man Zacchaeus. This is because according to our Lord, the whole point of His mission on earth was to seek and save the lost.
Are we like Eleazar who was not ready to compromise? Or are we still like Zacchaeus, the man of compromise, who however had a change that day our Lord entered and was passing through Jericho and sighted him? Do we allow our faith to influence the actions we take in the public sphere and our reactions to issues? Do we understand the value of good example and the destruction that compromise inflicts on undecided souls who could have become believers?
As we celebrate the memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary by her parents Joachim and Anna in the temple today, we recall God's abundant mercies and love showered on this noble daughter of Zion. We request for her intercession to become more steadfast in our commitments of faith and our dedication to God.
Let us pray: O God our loving Father, your word speaks to us today and challenges us to re-examine our dedication and devotion to you. Forgive us for the many times we have given bad examples and compromised your holy name by our ways of life. Allow your word to touch our hearts to give us courage to live coherent lives that bring glory to your name. Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.