Friday, February 22, 2013

What can we restore to God?

Dear Parish Faithful,

   Casting one final glance back to last Sunday’s Gospel of Christ’s encounter with Zacchaeus, we might discover a way of actualizing that profound encounter in our own lives.  When Christ entered his house, we hear that

Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; ; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  (LK. 19:8)

   This spontaneous confession and repentance before the Lord drew from Him the following words of great consolation for all sinners at all times:

“Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”  (LK. 19:9-10)

   We may well be content with ourselves for not having defrauded anyone of anything.  If that is the case, then the account of Zacchaeus will simply be an edifying story of the conversion of a sinner who bears little resemblance to us. The story may, then, move us; but it does not apply to us.  The basis for such a conclusion can be found in the fact that we are practicing members of the Church, not marginalized misfits such as Zacchaeus was seen to be by his peers, even though he was “rich.”  It is altogether unflattering to be compared with a sinner such as Zacchaeus!

   Yet how convincing is it to self-defensively distance ourselves from any comparisons with Zacchaeus?  I will assume that not many of us are prepared to give half of our belongings to the poor as a concrete sign of turning to God in repentance.  And although it may be somewhat of an awkward term to apply to our relationship with God, perhaps we too – like Zacchaeus before us - have “defrauded” God of the many things which God has graciously given to us:  our talents, time, energy, resources, desire and, ultimately, our love.  We selfishly cling to these gifts, and so fail to offer them back to God in love and thanksgiving.

   One of our most precious commodities is time itself – elusive, ever-moving, never enough of.  Do we “defraud” Christ of our time?  Is most of our “quality time” spent (or wasted?) elsewhere, so that it is rarely offered back on behalf of the “one thing needful?”  Does prayer, charitable work, visiting those in need, the reading of the Scriptures, attending the services of the Church, occupy the merest fraction of our time? Can our token crumbs of time really be enough to heal that artificial breach (which we ourselves have created) between the “sacred” and the “profane?”

That being the case, can we possibly repent like Zacchaeus and restore to God “fourfold” these things – and time itself – of which we have defrauded God?   If so, we would actualize this living encounter with Christ in our own lives and be worthy of hearing the words of Christ, as did Zacchaeus, that “salvation has come to this house.”

   Great Lent is the perfect season of the year to make at least some restoration of our time – and of our talents, energy, resources and love.  It is the time that we return to God.  The pre-lenten season which begins this Sunday with the Parable of the Publican and the Pharisee is the offering of an opportunity from God to meditate upon and start this process.  If we are feeling a bit “lost” then we need to realize that the Son of Man is seeking us. He will knock on the door as a “beggar of love” according to Vladimir Lossky; but we will have to open up from the inside.

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