By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, November 4, 2013

In Good Standing

In the Gospel passage of yesterday (Luke 19:1-10), we heard the familiar story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. It tells us that Zacchaeus was "short in stature". Since he was not tall he could not see over the heads of the people in the crowd and had to climb a tree to see Jesus, who was passing by. Yet his physical stature was not his real problem; his personal one was. This latter "stature" was that assigned to him by others; he was a tax collector, and therefore designated a sinner.

Here we touch a perennial problem of humanity: our tendency to assign stature to one another. When we do so it is usually on the basis of standards that are false and illusory: beauty, achievement, talent, wealth, and so on. When we do not measure up to these standards, our stature is diminished in the eyes of others, and, most terribly of all, in our own.

Everything changed for Zacchaeus when he meet Jesus. To be more precise, things turned around for him when Jesus looked at him. We know that Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but what was decisive for him was when Jesus noticed and looked at him. The Gospels tell us a number of stories of people's lives changing dramatically and totally when they came before the glance of Jesus. The Son of God in human flesh, Jesus sees the very truth of ourselves. He sees our true stature in the eyes of God and makes it known. Of Zacchaeus he said that he, too, was a "son of Abraham," was one, in other words, of God's chosen and beloved people. When we place ourselves before the gaze of the Lord and allow him to look at us, we discover in him our true stature. We learn that we are chosen in him to be the sons and daughters of God!

From the awareness of this truth life changes and is given true direction. After he met Jesus Zacchaeus promised to give half of his possessions to the poor and to repay fourfold any he had defrauded. That is to say, his life henceforth became one of charity and justice. When we allow ourselves to be embraced by the Lord and accept our true stature, our lives and hearts open up toward others in mercy as we seek out and care for the needy, and in justice as we dedicate ourselves to right wrongs.

In the Book of Wisdom we learn that God loves all that exists and detests nothing that he has made (cf. Wisdom 11:22 - 12:2). This is the basis of our true stature. Let us embrace it and live joyfully from this truth.