2 Thessalonians 1:11—2:2
Few things hold us back more than our excuses.
We have excuses for not praying, for not attending Mass, and for not following the Church’s teachings. We have excuses for not giving something up for Lent, for not reading the Bible, and for not spending time with our families. All the while, we miss out on what God has to offer us. So many gifts of peace and joy are lost because we are too busy making excuses, rather than taking the risk of following the path Jesus calls us to.
The story of Zacchaeus has much to teach us about all the blessings that can come our way once we put our excuses aside and take a risk for Jesus. Zacchaeus had plenty of excuses why he shouldn’t try to get a look at Jesus.
First of all, he was short. The crowd was so tightly packed that he couldn’t have hoped to see Jesus over their shoulders and heads. The children had the benefit of sitting on their fathers’ shoulders to get a look at Jesus. But no one was about to help Zacchaeus. We can just imagine him getting on the tips of his toes and jumping up and down to see over the people gathered along the side of the road.
Secondly, Zacchaeus was not only a small man physically, but he was also a small man spiritually. Though his name means “righteous one,” he was far from being a just man. He had accumulated his riches by extorting more taxes than the empire required. And the taxes he gathered helped ensure that the Roman Empire could tighten its grip on the people. Zacchaeus must have feared that a sinner such as himself would be brushed aside, ignored, or even scolded openly by the truly Righteous One, Jesus.
Thirdly, because of his position in the empire, Zacchaeus was small in the eyes of the crowd. No one was about to help him. Even if Jesus were to acknowledge him, the crowd would certainly denounce him for his crimes against them. Zacchaeus had reason to fear the ridicule of the crowd and, being a small man, might even have feared that they would attack him physically.
With so much against him, Zacchaeus could have decided that it was no use. However, instead of hanging his head and going home, Zacchaeus knew he would have to take an extreme measure to get a look at Jesus. He took the risk of climbing the sycamore tree, and it got Jesus’ attention. He was rewarded because his love for Jesus overcame his fear.
Faith requires overcoming obstacles and facing challenges to bring our values into reality. For every shameful experience, for every crowd that denounces us, for everything standing in our way, there is a grace compelling us to do whatever it takes to overcome it. Once we brush our excuses aside, we can grasp what Jesus is offering.
What excuses are holding us back? What are we afraid of? What challenges and obstacles stand in our way? Jesus is offering us the grace to overcome them if we put our trust in him and take the risk of seeking him out no matter what the crowd may think of it. When we do, we will find that he knows us by name, that he calls us to a banquet of love, and that we can have a loving relationship with him no matter our sins and failings.
Douglas Sousa, S.T.L.C
You went to extremes to save us.
For every time we disobeyed you,
you have offered us the grace of forgiveness.
For every time the crowd has turned on us,
you have picked us up and set us back on our feet.
When we have found it hard to see you,
you have revealed yourself to us.
In your light, help us to see the excuses
that are holding us back
from living fully the life you call us to.
Give us a lively faith
to overcome our fears,
so that we can hear you call our name
and welcome you into our homes.
Through Christ our Lord,