The story is told about a depressed person who climbed up a tree and would not go down. Nothing and no one could make him go down, until a priest gave him a blessing. When asked why he hurriedly went down, his response was: “The priest signaled me to come down because he was cutting the tree!”
In today’s gospel (Lk.19, 1-10), Zacchaeus came down from the sycamore tree because of Jesus’ words and presence, and because of that, he experienced conversion and discipleship. As long as we remain in the comfort and safety of our sycamore trees, we cannot truly encounter Jesus nor can we live meaningful and purposeful lives as His disciples.
Why can’t you really see Jesus? Because you are focused more on yourself and on the “crowd.” As long as we are so attached with our worldly comfort and worldly opinion and approval, we just let Jesus pass by, and never really search for and follow Him. A personal encounter with Jesus happens when we go down from our pedestals, titles, functions and social standings, and humbly acknowledge our dependence on and need for Him. Pride can really be blinding.
Going through the 21 California Mission churches started by Fr. Junipero Serra in the 1700s, I can’t help but imagine the difficulties he and the Franciscan missionaries went through for the sake of the gospel. They left the comforts of their home and their homeland Spain and faced dangers, deprivations, loneliness and persecutions for the Master. For us, what have we done, what have we sacrificed for the One who loves us most?
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day remind us of our sure appointment with death and the uncertainty of where we are to spend eternity. As regards death, we have no choice. Death is inevitable. As regards eternity, we can choose the enjoy-now-pay-later plan, or the endure-now-gain-later plan.
Beyond Halloween or trick or treat, the message of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day is that we all will die, we are not that important, and that we are not in control. There is someone bigger than you and I.
I was teary-eyed when I finally arrived at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City last Oct. 29. I felt the embrace of a loving mother who especially was with me all throughout my battle with cancer last year. No words can express the joy and the gratitude when we experience unconditional and overflowing love.
“I am here. I’m your mother. Do not fear. I am near.” Those are the words of Mama Mary I have held on all these years. Very assuring words especially in very trying times.
Please don’t forget the element of joy in your relationship with the Lord and Mama Mary. I remember how I enjoyed surprising and making my Mama happy. I hope we don’t pray just to unload our problems or bring our petitions, but also to enjoy her joyful and loving presence. Focus on the humor, not on the tumor!
Precious and few are the smiles and heartwarming moments while we are still alive. I believe that in heaven, we will have endless smiles and heartwarming moments. Better start practicing now.
May our loving remembrance of the saints go beyond petition to imitation. May our loving remembrance of the souls departed go beyond affection to conversion.
A moment with the Lord:
Lord, help us to come down from our pedestals and comfort zones, so that we can really encounter You and follow You. Amen.
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