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Inadequacies and Grace

October 30, 2016 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

October 30, 2016
Luke 19:1-10
Fr. George Smiga

We begin with Zacchaeus standing in a crowd of people, people who want to see Jesus as he passes through their city. Zacchaeus also wants to see Jesus. But he is unable to do so because of his height. You see, Zacchaeus is short. As the crowd presses in around him, all he can see is people’s shoulders and backs. It must have been frustrating. He must have thought to himself, “I miss out on everything.” And as the crowd pushes him from left to right, he remembers how many jokes he had to endure in school about being small; how many women looked the other way because they desired a man with greater stature; how many business deals he did not close because people supposed that his ability was reflected in his height. But time and again, Zacchaeus proved them wrong. He became a successful man. He rose to the rank of chief tax collector. He made a lot of money. The gospel does not hesitate to tell us that he was a wealthy man.

Yet, despite all of these successes, Zacchaeus’ height continues to frustrate him, as it does today. He realizes that he will not be able to see Jesus in this crowd. So Zacchaeus runs ahead and climbs a sycamore tree for a higher perspective. And it works. He does see Jesus. But more importantly, Jesus sees him. Jesus calls him down out of the tree and stays with him in his house. This day, Zacchaeus becomes a disciple.

All of this happened because Zacchaeus was short. Had he been of normal height, he would have been one face of hundreds in the crowd. But because he needed to see and climbed the tree, he stood out. Jesus saw him and called him by name. Zacchaeus’ frustrating shortness was the very means of his salvation.

The story of Zacchaeus reminds us that God saves us not only through our talents and successes, but also through our inadequacies. There might be some part of our life that we wish were different. There might be some quality that we would like to change. But this gospel tells us that God’s power is perfectly capable of using such limitations to bless us.

You might wish that you had greater athletic ability so that you could make the team at school, but this gospel reminds you that God can use your lack of ability to push you in a different direction. God can call you to concentrate more on your studies which may lead to a successful career. God might link you to others who struggle as you do, people who can become lifelong friends. You might wish that you were less introverted, able to feel more at ease in social settings or to speak out in a public forum. But this gospel tells you that God can use your introversion to increase your compassion for people who are often overlooked or to enhance your ability to listen and thereby heal the hearts of others. You might wish that you were more compatible with your spouse, that you could come to decisions without so many arguments and disagreements. But today’s gospel reminds you that, if you are willing, God can use your differences to call you to a deeper appreciation of your spouse and a deeper ability to sacrifice for the sake of your marriage, so that your marriage, although not easy, can be honest and life giving.

Now don’t get me wrong. The usual way to happiness is by the generous use of our talents and abilities. But God’s power is not limited to our gifts. We, like Zacchaeus, may well discover that the part of our life we would really like to change is the very means by which God blesses us and brings us joy.

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