On the Conversion of Zacheus.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On the Conversion of Zacheus.
To-day, my soul, you are invited to accompany the Saviour somewhat further on this, His last journey up to Jerusalem. This journey was marked by a great number of miracles which Jesus wrought. Consequently vast multitudes of people streamed from all sides to see the great Thaumaturgus, to listen to His teaching, to invoke His assistance; and amongst the incidents that took place on the way was the remarkable meeting with Zacheus. When our Lord drew near to the city of Jericho where Zacheus, the wealthy chief of the publicans resided, St. Luke tells us that this man heard that He was entering in and was desirous to see Him.
1st. “He sought to see Jesus who He was, and he could not for the crowd, because he was low of stature. And running before, he climbed up into a sycamore tree that he might see Him, for He was to pass that way. And when Jesus was come to the place, looking up, He saw him, and said to him: Zacheus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide in thy house.” (St. Luke xix. 3-6.) Zacheus, a man of short stature, that is to say of little faith, is desirous only to see Jesus, and behold, more than this is vouchsafed to him, more than he had thought or ventured to hope for, the joy and blessedness of receiving into his house the Saviour of men and with Him His salvation! So infinite is our Lord’s goodness, so bountifully and generously does He meet the least advances on the part of an unhappy sinner; He passes by no one in whom He perceives the least spark of good will. What a consolatory truth for you, my soul! But mark this: our Lord makes one stipulation, He imposes one condition upon Zacheus if He is to enter beneath his roof. He calls to him: “Make haste and come down.” He must descend from the tree upon which he climbed at the cost of much pains in order thence to obtain a view of Him who brought salvation, if Jesus is to be his guest. The tree in question was a fig-tree. The trunk is tall and rugged, the branches spread out wide and the fruit it bears is sweet to the taste. Now with the purpose of seeking welfare and happiness, many men give themselves much trouble in climbing into the lofty fig-tree, that represents pride; they hide themselves in its leafy branches, that is, they are absorbed in avaricious pursuit of temporal riches, and finally greedily crave for the fruit of the tree, the indulgence of the senses. Zacheus, make haste and come down; come down from the heights of pride, come down from the thick foliage of the tree of avarice, come down from the tree whose luscious fruit your sensual nature covets; come down, or otherwise Christ cannot enter into and abide in your house.
2d. Consider Zacheus conduct upon hearing the words our Lord addressed to him. “And he made haste and came down and received Him with joy. And when all saw it they murmured, saying that He was gone to be a guest with a man that was a sinner. But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have wronged any man of anything, I restore him fourfold.” (St. Luke xix. 6-8.) Observe the marvellous effects of divine grace. When Zacheus hears Jesus voice he is filled with holy joy, and as soon as he finds himself in His presence, his heart, before so cold and money-loving, is changed; he feels the bitterest, deepest compunction for his sins, he is ready to give up everything to which formerly he clung with his whole heart, he is resolved to make reparation, nay four fold reparation for all that he has gained unjustly. O wondrous power of our Lord’s grace! And yet how often this same miracle is wrought, how often we see a sinner all at once transformed as Zacheus was; the licentious become chaste, the miserly become liberal, those who before were tepid are inflamed with fervor and zeal. All this grace will effect, if only you correspond a little with it; all this our Lord will operate in your heart if you do but desire like Zacheus to see Him. Alas, perhaps you do not even do this little that is required of you!
3d. Consider our Lord’s words: “This day is salvation come to this house.” For in this house, St. Chrysologus remarks, Zacheus receives Jesus and is received by Him; he sets before his guest temporal refreshments and is refreshed by Him with spiritual graces. This that happened in Zacheus house occurs in every house in which God makes His dwelling-place, in which Christ takes up His abode, in every Catholic church. As in His condescending loving kindness the God made man entered into the house of a man who was a sinner, went to abide with Zacheus, so He does in every church; and the same joy, the same exultation which prevailed in Zacheus house in consequence of the Saviour’s presence there reigns here, where He continually dwells; the same plenitude of graces which was poured out on Zacheus household is given in the church to all, whether just or sinners, who are assembled there around the throne whence the Most High dispenses His favors. This is the reason why this Gospel is read in the Mass for the dedication of churches. Look into your own heart, reader, and ask yourself whether the consoling, elevating truths contained in this Gospel apply to you; whether you are in reality a spiritual temple, a mystic sanctuary of the Most High God. If this is not so, if salvation has not come to your house, acknowledge that you are yourself to blame for this; the fault lies with you, not with Him who could say of Himself: “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (v. 10.)
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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