The story is told about an usher who saw a man lying prone on three seats in a movie house. The usher told him: “Sorry, sir. You are allowed only one seat.” The man groaned but did not budge. So the usher called the security guard, who asked the man: “Sir, what’s your name and where are you from?” The man said, in pain: “My name is Sam and I’m from the balcony.”
In today’s Gospel (Lk. 19, 1-10), we hear the story of a man who came down from a tree to encounter Jesus. From a mere spectator, Zacchaeus became a follower and a disciple. If we want to encounter and follow Jesus, we must come down from our tree of comfort and security. Discipleship begins when we let go of our pride and take the road of humility.
Like Zacchaeus, many of us cannot see, encounter, and follow Jesus because of the crowd. What is your crowd? Who is your crowd that prevents you from truly seeing, encountering, and following Jesus? But the crowd is not so much outside as within us. We have to let go of the gods we have made of and for ourselves—especially the gods called selfishness and pride.
No matter how sinful we are, no matter how dirty, no matter how tough, in time the Lord’s grace will catch up with each and every one of us. In time, in God’s time, we all will encounter God’s power and love. Let us not give up on ourselves and on one another. God’s love and power are stronger far than we. Sooner or later we all will come down from whatever our tree is, voluntarily or forcibly. No one stays atop a tree forever.
How consoling to know that Jesus stops for us. Yes, we all are worth stopping for. May we also learn to make time and stop for the last, the least, and the lost in our midst. If you feel or think that you are entitled to bypass or overtake people, and even institutions and traditions, slow down. You’re moving too fast, or you’re getting too fat in your ego and in your mind.
I heard the confession of a terminally ill man last week. He made a rather impressive confession, giving a rundown of how he may or may not have violated each of the 10 commandments. After listening to his long soliloquy, which was very cerebral and philosophical, I just asked him if he was really sorry, and if he believed that God loves him. That’s when he began to cry. And that’s when grace finally caught up with him, and set him free. Finally, he came down from his tree.
May our celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day remind us of the shortness of our lives and the certainty of death. We are all called to become saints in our own way, and live meaningful and fruitful lives in the best way we can. And let us not forget that eternity awaits us, and that divine justice will catch up with each one of us.
Rest in peace. How about living in peace first? Peace is not, and should not, just be at the end of our earthly journey. It should be sought and strived for daily. Want a more peaceful journey? Take the road of prayer, humility, kindness, and joy every day, not just today.
Aside from our “bucket list” of things we want to do before our life ends, maybe we should now make our “regret list” to make sure that we will have little or no regret toward anything or anyone while there is still time. It could be a quarrel to mend, a person to forgive, a fault to be corrected, or a blessing to be shared. Perhaps there is still a “thank you,” a “sorry” or an “I love you” left unsaid. Start where you are and who you are with right now.
To alumni of San Sebastian College, Manila: You are invited to a joint reunion of Elementary Batch 1966 (our batch!) and High School Batch 1970 on Nov. 19. Registration starts at 1 p.m., Mass is at 1:30 p.m. For inquiries, please call: Benjie Salvador (09277240578), Mon Pestaño (09165574718), or Tony Yñiguez (09178487451).
And to all: final reunion and homecoming in heaven. Sorry, no exact date and time. For inquiries, be in constant touch with our Creator in heaven!
A moment with the Lord:
Lord, help us to come down from our tree of comfort and security so that we can follow You on the road of prayer, kindness, joy and humility. Amen.
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