October 30, 2016
Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector and therefore a wealthy man, has a great desire to meet Jesus. In order to express this desire, certainly he had heard about Jesus before. He was informed of his passing through his home town. He went out and waited to see him. A lot of people also went out to meet Jesus and it was impossible for Zacchaeus to find a good spot where he could greet him. He was too short in stature and he could not make his way through the crowd. His determination, however, to know Jesus moved him to overcome the obstacle. Zacchaeus, therefore, went ahead and climbed a sycamore tree! I assumed he wasn’t just standing in that tree. I think he was screaming aloud, “Jesus have mercy on me!”
Zacchaeus achieved his goal. Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.” Zacchaeus received Jesus with joy. I think about the importance of speaking about Jesus to those whom we know are in need of God in their lives. Since we come from God, we are always searching for him. There are many distractions which impede people from meeting him. If we are able to foster a great desire in them to meet Jesus, they will overcome the obstacles. After meeting Jesus and gradually getting to know him, a person’s life will change. That personal encounter with Jesus fostered in Zacchaeus’ life a great generosity and a sense of justice.
People noticed that Jesus went to stay at the house of a tax collector. They chattered about it. Even that did not stop Zacchaeus from opening his life to Jesus. He knew by then that Jesus had brought salvation to his entire family. Some people may experience a similar situation. Many people know us and they know our difficulties or limitations and will speak about them. ‘Look at him, every Sunday at Mass and yet…’ But even that should not stop us from strengthening our friendship with God. We know how much we need him and we know the great difference he makes in our lives. Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus are also for us, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.” And that is what matters.
God bless you all.
October 16, 2016
Dear Parish Family,
In today’s Gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus tells his disciples a parable about a widow who pleaded several times with a judge for a just decision against her adversary. The evangelist tells us that this judge did not show any fear for God nor did he show respect for mankind. He ended up, nonetheless, granting a judgment in favor of the widow because of her persistence.
There is a lesson to be learned in this parable. Success in life consists of having convictions and being persistent in pursuing these convictions. The widow in the parable never wavered about a just judgement in her favor. The judge, as indifferent as he was in the beginning, ended up granting her what she fought for. I think about my journey towards the priesthood. It took me ten years. Those ten years were not easy. They came with many doubts and challenges. Despite all of that, I always kept my goal in sight. Endurance brought me to the day of my ordination.
Persistence in prayer is as important as everything else in life. We ask the Holy Spirit for the cardinal virtue of fortitude. This virtue gives us the template to be firm during times of difficulty and constant in pursuing the good. Often times we are tempted to give up our efforts in preaching the gospel of life. We become impatient because we do not see the fruits of our efforts right away. The parable of the widow and the judge provides us with a simple and yet important lesson: if your fight is for a good cause, keep fighting for it; do not waver on your conviction to promote and protect human life.
God bless you all.
October 9, 2016
Dear Parish Family,
From the gospel of Luke, we read the passage about Jesus curing ten lepers. In those days, being infected with leprosy was a terrible thing. It was a great suffering, not only for the consequences of the illness as such, but for the social consequences that a leper faced. As soon as a person was infected with leprosy, he/she was declared unclean by a priest. The person was forbidden from any public appearance and forced to live outside the city until he or she died. A leper was a person without any hope whatsoever.
Notice the details in the Gospel: as Jesus was entering a village, ten lepers met him. The lepers stood at a distance from Jesus and raised their voices saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!”
Out of compassion for the undignified life conditions, Jesus ordered them, “Go and show yourselves to
the priest.” And as they were going they were cleansed. The priest was the one who declared them unclean and so it will be the priest who will declare them clean. We may ask, in what way did Jesus’ healing miracle impact the lives of these ten men? First, they were free from leprosy. But even more important, they were allowed to come in and live in the city with their families and other people. They could enjoy the
security of being in the city. They were allowed to enter the temple and worship God. Jesus, therefore, cured their illness, restored their dignity and gave them their place back in society and the right to enter the temple for worship.
I think in our time, society is much better prepared to deal with people with contagious diseases than back in the time of Jesus. I remain though with Jesus’ act of mercy: restoring the ten lepers’ dignity. I think about the times I have gone to Confession. God cleansed me from my sins. It is like God removing something dirty from me which affects my dignity as a person. God restores our dignity in the sacrament of Confession. There are many other moments in which God restores our dignity and gives us back the place in our family and community which we deserve.
God bless you all.
Rev. Johnson Lopez
Father Lopez is Pastor of Saint Patrick Catholic Church in Rochelle, IL.