Friday of the First Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

“We have never seen anything like this.”

That statement, from today’s Gospel reading, can be taken in a at least a couple of different ways.  It could be an expression of amazement: the people were seeing something new in Jesus and found it to be astonishingly wonderful.  “We have never seen anything like this!”  That’s almost too much to hope for from them, unfortunately, so what they probably meant was something much different.  They probably meant, we have never seen anything like this, and since it’s not what we are used to, we dislike it, we distrust it and refuse to go there.  “We have never seen anything like this.  Harumph!”

What’s sad about that is that we react that way too sometimes, don’t we?  The old joke is that the last seven words of the Church will be, “we’ve never done it that way before.”  If someone challenges us in new ways, we have a tendency to automatically assume it’s wrong.  People tend often to distrust anything that puts them outside their comfort zones.

And Jesus was dragging people out of their comfort zones all the time.  The scribes, Pharisees, and religious leaders all distrusted him because he hit them right where they lived.  He challenged them to new ways of thinking and praying and fasting and giving and even loving.  He showed them a Messiah that was much different than anything they ever expected.  And so they dismissed him: “We have never seen anything like this.”

But it cannot be so for us.  Jesus still challenges us today, beaconing us out of our comfort zones, challenging us to live for God and for others, and to reach out and live the Gospel with wild abandon.  Will we dismiss him and his message too?  Or will we say with eager expectation: “We have never seen anything like this!” – with eyes wide open to see where he will lead us next?

Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

You have to love this story of Zacchaeus, I think.  I think there are two main components of the story that really stand out for me as hallmarks of the spiritual life.

The first is Zacchaeus’s openness.  First, he is so eager to see Jesus that he climbs up a tree to get a look at him.  We don’t have to go that far.  All we have to do is spend some time in the Eucharistic Chapel, or even just some quiet moments reflecting on Scripture.  All of those are ways to see Jesus, but like Zacchaeus, we have to overcome obstacles to get a look at him.  For Zacchaeus, that meant climbing up a tree to overcome the fact that he was apparently vertically challenged!  But for you and me, that might mean clearing our schedule, making our time with Jesus a priority.  Zacchaeus’s openness also included inviting Jesus in, despite his sinfulness.  He was willing to make up for his sin and change everything once he found the Lord.  We might ask ourselves today what we need to change, and how willing we are to invite Jesus into our lives, despite our brokenness.

The second thing that stands out for me is what Jesus says to those who chided him for going into a sinner’s house.  “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”  What wonderful words those are for us to hear.  Because we know how lost we have been at times, and how far we have wandered from our Lord.  But the Lord seeks us out anyway, because we are too valuable for him to lose.

And all we have to do is to be open to the Lord’s work in our lives, just like Zacchaeus was.  What a joy it will be then to hear those same words Jesus said to him:  “Today salvation has come to this house.”