A Homily I Wish I Had Preached on Zacchaeus — Father Austin Fleming 

[Just about every preacher is sensitive to comments about his or her preaching. Oddly enough many tend not to believe compliments because we are almost always our own harshest critics.  Here is a homily Father Austin Fleming preached six years ago. It is an excellent example of helping hearers and readers see themselves in the reading being preached and drawing connections for one’s spiritual journey. Be sure to check out this Concord Pastor’s blog that can be found on my blogroll in the right column of this blog.]  

Niels Larsen Stevns- Zakæus

We don’t know what St. Peter looked like,
or John the Baptist, or Mary, or Jesus himself.
We don’t know if they were tall or short,
handsome and beautiful or plain and unremarkable.
We don’t know if they were fat or skinny,
and we don’t know the color of their eyes or hair
The scriptures are pretty much silent
when it comes to the appearance of its characters.

But along comes Zacchaeus and for some reason
St. Luke decides it’s important
that we know that Zacchaeus was short.
Short! 
Who cares?
Who cares if Zacchaeus had to climb a tree to see Jesus?

Does it make any difference?
Maybe it does.

Luke tells us that Zacchaeus was 
seeking to see who Jesus was…
I’ll bet it’s a fair guess on my part
that just about everyone here this morning is,
in one way or another,
seeking to see who Jesus is…

Now, Zacchaeus had trouble seeing Jesus passing by
because he was – well, you know – short!
There was something about Zacchaeus
that made it difficult for him to see who Jesus was.

I wonder:
is there anything about you, anything about me,
that makes it difficult for us to see who Jesus is?

One thing about me
that makes it difficult for me to see who Jesus is,
is fear: my fear that if I see him,
he may look me in the eye and ask something of me
that I may not be ready or willing to give.

For some, it’s their doubts
that make it difficult for them to see who Jesus is:
doubts about faith; doubts about the church;
doubts about God…

For others what makes it difficult or them to see Jesus
may be an unhealed hurt from the past;
disappointment in prayer;
a skeptical mind;
anger at the church…

And for others…
well sometimes only I know for myself,
and you for yourself, what it is about us
that makes it difficult to see Jesus clearly.

Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus.
I wonder; what do we need to climb?
How do we need to change our perspective
so that we might see Jesus more clearly?

Zacchaeus had the sense to get above things,
to get beyond his own limitations
to see the One he was seeking.
And once he did that, once he climbed that tree,
then the One he was seeking not only saw him
but called him down from the tree
– and went home with him!

(See! That’s what I fear!
Jesus getting so close
that he invites himself to lunch at my place
and sits down at my kitchen table to – talk…)

Zacchaeus often gets a bad rap as a tax collector
and it’s often presumed that he was a cheat and a thief
until he met Jesus.
But the Hebrew word from which Zacchaeus’ name comes
means “pure, clean and innocent.”

The Jericho tax collector up in the tree is “Mr. Clean!”
Perhaps Luke is telling us something here.
No matter how good we might be,
there’s always more to see in Jesus
than what we have already seen.
There’s always more to seek, more to find.
I could climb a tree every day of my life
and every day see Jesus more clearly than the day before.
Acknowledging our own limitations
and looking for ways to work with them,
and to work around them,
and to get beyond them,
is a challenge that will be with all of us, always.

We are here, today, because we want to see Jesus
more clearly today than we did yesterday.

Well, we’ve come to the right place:
we’ve climbed the right tree!
For in this place:
we can hear his very voice in the scriptures;
we can meet him in one another;
and as he invited himself to Zacchaeus’ house,
so he invites himself to our table, his altar.
Here he gives us much more than half of all he has,
he gives everything for us in the Eucharist.
In bread, broken as his body, he gives us healing.
In the cup, poured out as his blood, he gives us life.

He called Zacchaeus long ago and he calls us today
to come down quickly
for he wants to stay, to make his home with us.

For even as we seek to see him,
he has long been seeking us, the lost,
to find us and to give us his peace.

 
[LINK: http://concordpastor.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2007-11-06T01:14:00-05:00&max-results=10&reverse-paginate=true%5D

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Saint Isaac of Ninevah (d. circa 700 a.d.) ON PRAYER

[This is the ? of a an ongoing series of posts featuring a saint, mystic, or writer to include some of their thoughts on prayer as well as a prayer written by or ascribed to him or her.  He frequently emphasized the place and importance of silence in personal prayer.]

Let us love silence till the world is made to die in our hearts.
 
Let us always remember death, and in this thought 
draw near to God in our heart–
and the pleasures of this world will have our scorn.

Do not approach the mysterious words in the scriptures 
without prayer and without asking help from God, saying: 
“Lord, grant me to perceive the power that is in them.” 
Deem prayer as the key to the insight of truth in scripture.

As a man whose head is under water cannot inhale pure air, 
so a man whose thoughts are plunged into the cares of this world 
cannot absorb the sensations of that new world.

To bear a grudge and pray, means to sow seed on the sea and expect a harvest.

A small but persistent discipline is a great force; 
for a soft drop tailing persistently, hollows out hard rock.

BONUS: A Poem by Saint Isaac of Ninevah. 

Be at peace with your own soul
then heaven & earth will be at peace with you.
Enter eagerly into the treasure
house that is within you,
And you will see the things that are in heaven,
for there is but one single entry to them both.
The ladder that leads to the Kingdom
is hidden within your soul…
Dive into yourself and in your soul
and you will discover the stairs
by which to ascend.

A Prayer Written by Saint Isaac of Ninevah 
O Name of Jesus,
key to all gifts,
open up for me the great door to your treasurehouse
so that I may enter and praise you
with the praise that comes from the heart
in return for your mercies
which I have experienced in latter days;
for you came and renewed me
with an awareness of the New World.

I give praise to your holy nature, Lord,
for you have made my nature
a sanctuary for your hiddenness
and a tabernacle for your Mysteries,
a place where you can dwell,
and a holy temple for your divinity.
— Prayer of Saint Isaac of Nineveh in “The Syriac Fathers On Prayer
and the Spiritual Life,” Cistercian Publications

[PHOTO: This is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain  because its copyright has expired.  Once again, thanks to Wikkimedia Commoms.]

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Meister Eckhart (1260 –1327) ON PRAYER

[This is the fourth of a series of posts featuring a saint, mystic, or writer to include some of their thoughts on prayer as well as a prayer written by or him or her.  Like many before and following, this mystic ran afoul of some church officials over theological, not spiritual, issues and is unlikely to ever be canonized.]

 http://eckhartaustralia.com/pics/meister_eckhart1.jpg

The strongest prayer, one well-nigh almighty in what it can effect, and the most exalted work a man can do proceed from a pure heart…. A pure heart is capable of anything…. A pure heart is one that is unencumbered, unworried, uncommitted, and which does not want its own way about anything but which, rather, is submerged in the loving will of God, having denied self.   

All people are not called to God by the same road, as St. Paul says.… God never tied man’s salvation to any pattern. Let a person choose one good way [of meditation, prayer, etc.] for himself and stick to it… We must see that all good ways belong together in the One Way.

One ought to become a God-seeker in all things and a God-finder at all times. 

The foundation of spiritual blessing is this: that the soul look at God without anything between.

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “Thank You”, that would suffice.

A Prayer by Meister Eckhart
O high abundance of divine nature, 
show me your way
that in Thy wisdom Thou hast ordained
and open to me the precious treasure chest
to which Thou hast invited me: (namely to be able)
to understand with intelligence above all creatures,
to love with the angels and to be familiar
with Thy true born Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ,
and to inherit from Thee and to receive Thee
according to Thy eternal wisdom.
And with Thy help, to keep away from all evil.

[The illustration is courtesy of the Eckhart Society of Australia] 

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A Marian Prayer by Saint Therese of Lisieux on her Feast Day 

 

 Ikon Venecia 1

A Marian Prayer by Saint Therese of Lisieux

Virgin full of grace,
I know that at Nazareth you lived modestly,
without requesting anything more.
Neither ecstasies, nor miracles, 
nor other extra ordinary deeds
enhanced your life,
O Queen of the elect.
The number of the lowly, “the little ones,” is very great on earth.
They can raise their eyes to you without any fear.
You are the incomparable Mother
who walks with them along the common way to guide them to heaven.
Beloved Mother, in this harsh exile,
I want to live always with you
and follow you every day.
I am enraptured by the contemplation of you and 
I discover the depths of the love of your heart.
All my fears vanish under your motherly gaze, 
which teaches me to weep and to rejoice!  Amen.  
— Saint Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897)

[SOURCE: Blessed Art Thou: A Treasury of Marian Prayers and Devotions.  Richard J. Beyer, Notre Dame, IN : Ave Maria Press,  1996.]

[PHOTO by Kandi Icon of Veniceis licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic and 1.0 Generic license. Wikimedia Commons]   

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The Feast of the Triumph of the Cross

[One might call today’s Feast of the Triumph of the Cross the most oxymoronic of feasts since triumph and cross seem to contradict one another and yet are placed side by side.  What seemed a complete defeat on Good Friday became victory when Easter Sunday saw the risen Lord appearing to the apostles and other disciples.  Here follows a reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Phillipians and a prayer by mystic Saint Birgitta of Sweden (1303-1373)].

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess
to the glory of God the Father.
that Jesus Christ is Lord!

(Phil 2:6-11)

Infinite glory to You, my Lord Jesus Christ!
For us, You humbly endured the Cross.
Your holy hands and feet were stretched out with rope.
Your hands and feet were secured with iron nails
to the wood of the cross, cruelly.
You were called “Traitor!”
You were ridiculed in many ways.
Unmentionable words were shouted at You,
and — all the while — that title of confusion
was inscribed above you.

Eternal praise to You, Lord
for each and every hour You suffered such terrible
bitterness and agony on the cross for us sinners!
The sharpest pains from Your wounds
penetrated Your happy soul and brutally ransacked
Your most Sacred Heart, until it cracked.
Then You sent Your spirit out happily
and bowed Your head humbly,
commending Your soul to the hands of God Your Father.
Then, having died in the body,
You remained there, cold on the cross.

May You be praised, my Lord!
By Your precious blood and holiest death,
You redeemed our souls and
Your mercy leads us back from exile to eternal life.
— Birgitta of Sweden, Prayers.

SOURCE:

[Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.]

[PHOTO]

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TODAY IS The Feast of the Triumph of the Cross

Who Holds the Cross of Christ?

Pilate asked Jesus, 
“Do you not know that I have power 
to release you, and power to crucify you?” (John 19:10) 
Pilate thinks he holds the cross of Christ.
Jesus knows otherwise. 
How we see and understand the cross 
is determined by who we believe holds the cross.

In human hands the cross is imposed.
In God’s hands it is chosen.

In human hands the cross takes life.
In God’s hands it gives life.

In human hands the cross is the means of execution.
In God’s hands it is the means of reconciliation.

In human hands the cross is for punishment.
In God’s hands it is for salvation.

In human hands the cross is a tragedy.
In God’s hands it is a triumph.

In human hands the cross is an instrument of death.
In God’s hands it is the sword of life plunged into the heart of death.

In human hands the cross raises a question of what we believe about God.
In God’s hands it makes a statement of what God believes about us.

In human hands the cross tells a story of destruction.
In God’s hands it tells a story of love.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you, 
because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

—  Michael K. Marsh

[SOURCE: http://interruptingthesilence.com/2012/04/06/who-holds-the-cross-of-christ/%5D

[ART: This image is in the public domain because its copyright has expired.  On Wikimedia Commons]

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St. John Chrysostom (347-407) ON PRAYER, I

http://orthodoxmeditations.blogspot.com/2010/10/lessons-from-lazarus.html

There is nothing more worthwhile than to pray to God and to converse with him,
for prayer unites us with God as his companions.
As our bodily eyes are illuminated by seeing the light,
so in contemplating God our soul is illuminated by him.
Of course the prayer I have in mind is no matter of routine,
it is deliberate and earnest.
It is not tied down to a fixed timetable;
rather it is a state which endures by night and day.

It is simply impossible to lead, without the aid of prayer, a virtuous life.

Prayer should be the means
by which I, at all times,
receive all that I need,
and, for this reason,
be my daily refuge,
my daily consolation,
my daily joy,
my source of rich
and inexhaustible joy in life.

Prayer is
an all-efficient panoply,
a treasure undiminished,
a mine which is never exhausted,
a sky unobscured by clouds,
a heaven unruffled by the storm.
It is the root, the fountain,
the mother of a thousand blessings.

A Prayer by St. John Chrysostom

O Lord, my God,
I am not worthy that You should come into my soul,
but I am glad that You have come to me
because in Your loving kindness
You desire to dwell in me.
You ask me to open the door of my soul,
which You alone have created,
so that You may enter into it
with Your loving kindness
and dispel the darkness of my mind.
I believe that You will do this
for You did not turn away Mary Magdalene
when she approached You in tears.
Neither did you withhold forgiveness from the tax collector
who repented of his sins
or from the good thief
who asked to be received into Your kingdom.
Indeed, You numbered as Your friends
all who came to You with repentant hearts.
O God, You alone are blessed always,
now, and forever.

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Ten Lessons We Can Learn from the Agony in the Garden by Gary Zimak

Over the course of our lives, it is inevitable that we will experience suffering. It is also inevitable that this suffering will cause us to ask many questions:

Why me?

What should I do?

Is it okay to feel anxious or sad?

Can God help me?

Fortunately for us, the answers to each of these (any many more) questions about suffering can be found by studying Jesus’ actions on the night before He died. Here are 10 lessons that we can learn from the Agony in the Garden.

1. It’s Okay To Be Troubled – Sometimes we think that feeling sad or nervous means that our faith is lacking. We assume that if we trust God, we should always be happy. Not true! While we should avoid worrying, fear and sadness are normal human emotions. Jesus was “sorrowful and troubled” (Mt 26:37), “greatly distressed” (Mk 14:33) and “His sweat became like great drops of blood” (Lk 22:44). It’s perfectly acceptable for you do feel the same way when faced with difficulties in your life.

2. Prayer Matters – While there’s nothing wrong with feeling distressed or sad when facing difficulties, we should never succumb to useless worry. Instead, we should imitate Jesus and PRAY!

3. Ask Your Friends For Help – One thing that makes suffering more intense is the feeling that we’re in it alone. In his agony, Jesus teaches us an important lesson. Ask others for help! Jesus asked Peter, James and John to accompany Him as He prayed in the garden. When we’re in trouble, we should ask people to pray for us. In addition to our earthly friends, we can ask the saints in Heaven and the souls in purgatory to intercede on our behalf. There is never a reason to suffer alone!

4. God Can Do All Things – No matter what you are facing, ALWAYS remember that there is hope. Jesus assures us with the following words, addressed to His Father:

“Abba, Father, all things are possible to you.” (Mark 14:36)

5. It’s Okay To Ask For Relief – Sometimes we’re afraid to ask the Lord to take away our suffering. We shouldn’t be. Jesus did exactly that:

“My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me.” (Mt 26:39)

Always feel free to ask the Lord to remove your suffering, but…

6. Thy Will Be Done – We should accept the Lord’s decision. When Jesus prayed that His suffering might pass, He appended the words “but not as I will, but as thou will” to the prayer (Mt 26:39, Mk 14:36, Lk 22:42). Adding this powerful phrase ALWAYS ensures that we are praying in accordance with God’s will, even if His will is unknown to us!

7. Prayer Always Works – We often complain that God doesn’t answer our prayers. What this really means is that He doesn’t answer them in the way we’d like. We have to trust that, when we pray, we’ll always receive what we NEED, not necessarily what we WANT. In His humanity, Jesus prayed that His suffering would be removed (if it be the Father’s will). As it turned out, this was not the Father’s will. It was necessary that Jesus endure suffering so that mankind could be redeemed. In addition, Jesus received something that He didn’t request, but something that helped Him to carry His cross:

“And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him” (Lk 22:43)

8. Don’t Stop Praying – In times of trouble, one of our biggest temptations is to stop praying. If the Lord doesn’t answer fast enough, we often stop praying. Big mistake! In his gospel account, St. Matthew tells us that Jesus prayed three times in the garden “saying the same words” (Mt 26:44). Therefore, it’s perfectly fine for you to continually ask God to heal your cancer or help you find a job!

9. Pray To Avoid Temptation – While He was in the garden, Jesus warned Peter, James and John to pray that they would not enter into temptation (Mt 26:41, Mk 14:38, Lk 22:46). What’s one of the biggest temptations that we can encounter in the midst of suffering? Despair! Without prayer, it’s very easy to give up as we tire of carrying our cross. Take Jesus’ words seriously and keep praying even if you don’t feel like it.

10. Angels Are Real – Do you believe in angels? You should because they are VERY real and can help you! When Jesus was agonizing in the garden, who was sent to strengthen Him? Certainly not Peter, James and John because they were asleep! Instead, an angel was sent to strengthen the Lord (Lk 22:42). Each of us has a guardian angel who watches over us. Remembering that fact during times of trouble can be extremely comforting. If an angel was sent to strengthen the Lord during His incredible agony, couldn’t your angel do the same for you?

As Christians, we are all called to imitate Jesus. There is no better time to do so than during our times of suffering. Not only did Christ suffer much, but He can teach us a great deal about HOW to suffer. Following His example can help us greatly as deal with our daily struggles.

[Gary Zimak is a full time Catholic Evangelist, author and radio host. In addition to hosting Following The Truth on Blogtalkradio (M-F at 8 PM Eastern), Gary is a frequent guest on EWTN, Relevant and Sirius/XM Radio. He is the author of A Worrier’s Guide To The Bible and Listen To Your Blessed Mother (coming in August 2013), both from Liguori Publications. ]

[SOURCE: http://catholicstand.com/suffering-10-lessons-we-can-learn-from-the-agony-in-the-garden/%5D
(Image: “The Agony of Christ” Gaetano Gandolfi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

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Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997) ON PRAYER – II

[This is the ? of a series of posts featuring a saint, mystic, or writer to include some of their thoughts on prayer as well as a prayer written by or ascribed to him or her.  Today is this saint’s Feast. For more about her, visit the Saint of the Day blog on the right column of this blog.]

Everything starts from prayer.

God has created us to love and to be loved, 
and this is the beginning of prayer –
to know that God loves me, 
that I have been created for greater things.

We must become holy, not because we want to feel holy, 
but because Christ must be able to live his life fully in us.”

You can pray while you work. 
Work doesn’t stop prayer and prayer doesn’t stop work. 
It requires only that small raising of the mind to Him.

If we really want to pray, we must first learn to listen: 
for in the silence of the heart God speaks.

A Prayer Written by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta 
Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. 
Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. 
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly 
that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. 
Shine through me and be so in me that every soul 
I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. 
Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. 
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, 
so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.

[Stained glass window with painted detail designed , manufactured and installed in the Holy Cross Catholic Church in District Six , Cape Town , South Africa . It is a depiction of Mother Teresa during her visit in 1988 and is the vision of the artist Daniel de Klerk , owner of D R Art Glass Studio in Calitzdorp , South Africa .  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.]

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May I Be Happy in You – A Prayer of Saint Augustine

May I Be Happy in You

I beg of You, my God, 
let me know You and love You 
so that I may be happy in You. 
And though I cannot do this fully in this life, 
yet let me improve from day to day 
till I may do so to the full.

Let me know You more and more in this life, 
that I may know You perfectly in heaven.
Let me know You more and more here, 
so that I may love You perfectly there,
so that my joy may be great in itself here, 
and complete in heaven with You.

O Truthful God, let me receive the happiness of heaven 
which You promise so that my joy may be full.
In the meantime,
let my mind think of it,
let my tongue talk of it,
let my heart long for it,
let my mouth speak of it,
let my soul hunger after it,
let my flesh thirst after it,
let my whole being desire it,
until such time as I may enter 
through death into the joy of my Lord,
there to continue forever, 
world without end.  Amen.

 — Saint Augustine (354-430)

[PHOTO by Daderot of a stained-glass window of St. Augustine by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933), in the Lightner Museum, St. Augustine, FL. Now in the public domain and made available on Wikimedia Commons.]

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