Would I Make the Climb for Jesus?

November 17, 2020   Memorial of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious (Lectionary: 498)

Reading 1   RV 3:1-6, 14-22

I, John, heard the Lord saying to me:
“To the angel of the Church in Sardis, write this:

“‘The one who has the seven spirits of God
and the seven stars says this: “I know your works,
that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die,
for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent.
If you are not watchful, I will come like a thief,
and you will never know at what hour I will come upon you.
However, you have a few people in Sardis
who have not soiled their garments;
they will walk with me dressed in white,
because they are worthy.“‘

The victor will thus be dressed in white,
and I will never erase his name from the book of life
but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father
and of his angels.

“‘Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”“

"To the angel of the Church in Laodicea, write this:

“‘The Amen, the faithful and true witness,
the source of God’s creation, says this:
“I know your works;
I know that you are neither cold nor hot.
I wish you were either cold or hot.
So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold,
I will spit you out of my mouth.
For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’
and yet do not realize that you are wretched,
pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich,
and white garments to put on
so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed,
and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise.
Be earnest, therefore, and repent.

“‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door,
then I will enter his house and dine with him,
and he with me.
I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne,
as I myself first won the victory
and sit with my Father on his throne.

“‘Whoever has ears ought to hear
what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Responsorial Psalm   PS 15:2-3A, 3BC-4AB, 5

R. (Rev. 3: 21) I will seat the victor beside me on my throne.
He who walks blamelessly and does justice;
who thinks the truth in his heart
and slanders not with his tongue.
R. I will seat the victor beside me on my throne.
Who harms not his fellow man,
nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
By whom the reprobate is despised,
while he honors those who fear the LORD.
R. I will seat the victor beside me on my throne.
Who lends not his money at usury
and accepts no bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things
shall never be disturbed.
R. I will seat the victor beside me on my throne.
Alleluia   1 JN 4:10B
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
God loved us, and send his Son
as expiation for our sins.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   LK 19:1-10

At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature. 
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, 
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.” 
And he came down quickly and received him with joy. 
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, 
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” 
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”

By Melissa Velez 

When I was twelve years old I begged my mom to take me to a local mall in Los Angeles to see one of my favorite bands. She agreed, and we arrived early on the morning of and were made to wait behind a barrier with crowds of other fans before they would let us in.

Once they removed the barricades it was like a tsunami - people stampeded past one another with little respect for personal space, running down the walkways of the mall in an effort to get to the very front of the crowd. I began running as well, to my mom’s chagrin, but we still ended up a little ways in the back. I remember climbing up and sitting on another metal railing, so that I could see the band from over the heads of the people in front of me. I was awestruck over seeing celebrities in real life.

That memory of many years ago came back to me this afternoon, after reading through today’s Gospel a few times. I see my past behaviors in those of Zaccheus, albeit for a very different reason. Zaccheus, on his part, knew Jesus would be coming to the town and in an effort to see him, braved the crowds and clamor and ultimately climbed a tree. I’m sure Zaccheus got some strange looks and people trying to dissuade him or thinking it was below him to behave that way. Yet, he did it.

It got me thinking, would I behave this way again, but in pursuit of Jesus?

In our current world there are a lot of restrictions. Masses are online or outdoors, extra prayer services are cut down or cancelled, and there are limits to how many can attend. It’s definitely a cross to bear, but rather than focus on these present trials,  I choose to ask, what are they teaching me about my past? Did I always behave like Mass and Adoration were a gift that could be taken away any minute, or did I take them for granted?

Too early, too late. Too crowded, not enough attendees. I don’t know anybody there, I’m tired of seeing all the same people. I have things to do.

The list of excuses as to why I am reluctant to go wherever Jesus would be goes on.

But when I was twelve, I got up before dawn, waited in a crowd of strangers, ran through a crowded mall and climbed over waist high metal barriers just to see a band. Zaccheus endured crowds and ridicule and climbed a tree simply for a glimpse of Jesus.

How is today's Gospel a reminder, calling me to the same kind of radical effort I displayed in the past, to the same kind of wild determination and abandon shown by Zaccheus?

Looking back, I see that in my weaker moments and heart of hearts I’ve viewed Jesus’ presence as a possibility for condemnation.

Through my own guilty conscience I was ashamed to show up before Him, like it would somehow be hypocritical of me. So I accepted excuses. But the truth is, His presence is always an invitation, never a condemnation. An invitation to encounter truth and grace in the person of Jesus Christ, an invitation to relationship with Him.

Not only does He long to see me, He longs to stay with me, as He did with Zaccheus. Like Zaccheus, I need to put excuses behind, rouse up a zealous heart, and seek Jesus out wherever He may be. He’s waiting for me.


Melissa Velez is from Southern California, born and raised, and a current Cincinnati, Ohio transplant. She has also lived in Portland, Oregon and Salt Lake City, Utah. A teacher by education, she now works in social services as a client advocate at St. Vincent de Paul. She is a lover of all things beautiful and educational, most especially poetry, the performing arts, and travel (goal: visit all 50 states, 30 more to go!) Three things she is constantly craving: sushi, matcha lattes, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Her writing can also be found on the Lifeteen and NET ministries blogs. Find more about her here.

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