MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT TARRAWARRA ABBEY, YARRA GLEN, ON SUNDAY 4 NOVEMBER 2007 AT 10AM.HOMILYDear Brothers and Sisters,
High up in the sycamore tree Zaccheus hears the words of Jesus with humour and gentleness. The Gospel tells us he was a tax collector and a wealthy man driven solely by curiosity to see what kind of man Jesus was. He is fascinated with Jesus’ words: “Zaccheus, come down, hurry, because I must stay at your house today.”The story in itself has its own progression; from human curiosity to vision of what Jesus was doing, to engagement with Jesus. At a human level Jesus invites Zaccheus to come down. First, at a human level he responds to the welcoming words of the Saviour.In many cases our response to others is like this – a welcoming word changes our misconceptions. Yet we must note that Jesus leads Zaccheus further. Zaccheus must have known that he was reputed as being a sinner. When the Lord came and stayed at his house he overturned all that to show Zaccheus and us that whatever may be our stage on life’s journey Jesus comes to meet us at that stage to lead us to deeper faith.Obviously, Zaccheus felt the challenge of having to make financial recompense for monies he had extorted and when he says: “I am going to give half my profit to the poor. If I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount”, we see Zaccheus seeking to restore the balance that had been lost by his own greed. Yet I think Zaccheus is ready to go further because Jesus says: “Today salvation has come to this house.” Jesus’ first invitation brought a response of Zaccheus coming near to him, then there was an awareness in Zaccheus that he had to put things right with God, then an invitation to salvation.So often it is through human events that this progression can take place.The words of the Gospel: “The Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost”, is a much greater challenge; beginning with a human encounter, moving to a restoration of justice and on to the full embracing of God’s love. This is the challenge Our Lord gives us whenever we meet him. We are able to come as we are, to find forgiveness and new life and move on into the eternal dimensions of our life.The providence of God is so powerful, as we see in the first Reading: “You are merciful to all because you can do all things and you overlook men’s sins so that they can repent. Yet you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you made in abundance.”We are made in love, as the crown of God’s creation, endowed with the precious gift of free will. For this reason we praise God’s name forever. We do wait for the coming of Our Lord as Saviour. The story of Zaccheus illustrates how distracted can be our waiting, how we need to allow Jesus to lead us along the journey so that we will in fact be transformed. We know especially that the Lord is faithful in all his words and loving in all his deeds. The same God who gave his only Son that we might have life through him.Looking at the Gospel story today in a very human way, we see how Jesus quietly leads Zaccheus from an encounter of curiosity through to justice and to deep faith.We need to ask ourselves whether our encounter with the Lord, day by day, is only at the level of curiosity, or whether through learning how the Lord changed the heart of Zaccheus we too can come to deep faith and love, hope which is infectious and which leads us on to our destiny.In this month of November when we think of those who have died, we are reminded that the only thing, which will sustain us for our journey through life and into eternity is a faith which recognises Jesus as Lord and discovers new life as a result. This is what Zaccheus did.Strangely enough as I was preparing this homily in the back of my Sunday Missal I found a memorial card for Father Finbar Linehan, who died on 19th April 1999. He at the same time challenges us and offers us the answer: “For me, to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:21) May Christ be within you, above you, before you, Christ in the heart of friend and stranger.+ Denis J. Hart,Archbishop of Melbourne.