Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Today's Gospel is the wonderful story of Zaccheus, the height-challenged "arch" tax collector of Jericho. In a way, we're going from yesterday's "low" (the blind beggar sitting on the road) to a "high" (as in, perched in a tree). And the two stories depict different ways people come to God. But in both, God's first move was a secret grace that spurred the two men to go looking for Jesus. That's what theology calls "prevenient grace," and it's important for the theology of the missions. What it means is that the Holy Spirit prepares people for the Gospel; the missionary doesn't come to a barren field when preaching the Gospel.
But to look at the Gospels of yesterday and today, we see that the beggar, moved interiorly to call out to Jesus, did not have Jesus at his beck and call. Jesus sent someone over to bring the man to him. Today, on the other hand, we have Zaccheus, moved to climb a tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus, and Jesus goes right to him and invites himself to dinner at the tax collector's house (where he was sure to meet many other social pariahs).
Look at John's Gospel, Chapter 4: the Samaritan woman came to the well, and Jesus began conversing with her (but only after giving her the opportunity to provide him with water). But the people of the village came to Jesus only through the woman's testimony about him.
St. Paul came to know Jesus in a "direct" (if highly unusual) way on the road to Damascus, but the people in Ephesus, Philippi and the rest only came to him through Paul's preaching.
No matter how grace works in our lives, it is still grace!

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