In Short: Luke 19:1-10
#InShort is the Podcast for October 30, 2016. When St. Theophylact, Time Magazine, and Joe Scarborough agree about Zacchaeus, you have got to take a look. Listen to this podcast to find out.: Download it into your phone. #MSAWordfortheDay # MySpiritualAdvisor #Pharisees #TaxCollectors #HolyLiving #Luke19 #Zacchaeus #TomWolfe #JoeScarborough #MorningJoe #TimeMagazine #Time #SorenKierkegaard #Drugs #Teens #Anxiety #Depression #Achievement #Exhaustion #Saved #Lost #Found
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For Listener Supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 10/30/2016 The 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 19:1-10
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When St. Theophylact, Time Magazine and Joe Scarborough all agree about the story of Zacchaeus, then you have to pay attention. Here is how they agree:
St. Theophylact, an Orthodox saint, said in his commentary on the story of the very short man Zacchaeus, that he was the chief tax collector. Zacchaeus not only extorted and fraudulently accumulated his own wealth, but he got a cut of all the other regular run of the mill tax collectors. So, when Jesus decided to eat at Zacchaeus’ house, he wasn’t just eating at the house of a person that the Pharisees considered a sinner, but Zacchaeus was the chief of the sinners! There could be no one more lost in the eyes of the Pharisees.
Furthurmore, St. Theophylact writes that this chief tax collector was so taken with Jesus that he embarrassed himself by climbing a tree to see him, he agreed to give half of what he owned to the poor, the other half would be taken up with repaying people four fold what he extorted from them (in accordance with the Torah), and he would welcome Jesus into his home. This last fact is lost on us. It would be the modern day equivalent of a gang lord inviting the Archbishop of his city into his house for a meal. It would be embarrassing and damaging to his street cred. In short (the pun is intentional), St. Theophylact points out that Zacchaeus was giving up everything he had to follow Jesus.
OK, Time Magazine. Time Magazine came out with a cover story on the day that I wrote this [sermon/homily/reflection] that deals with anxiety and depression amongst our teens. Here is what it says about causes:
In [the author’s] dozens of conversations with teens, parents, clinicians and school counselors across the country, there was a pervasive sense that being a teenager today is a draining full-time job that includes doing schoolwork, managing a social-media identity and fretting about career, climate change, sexism, racism–you name it. Every fight or slight is documented online for hours or days after the incident. It’s exhausting. (http://time.com/4547322/american-teens-anxious-depressed-overwhelmed/?xid=homepage&pcd=hp-magmod)
Exhaustion and chaos are the work of the Devil. Rest, simplicity, and order are the work of the Lord. Out of the chaos of non-existence, the heavens and the earth were created. We were given each other in families, birthed to one another. Now, definitions of everything are in question with post-modernism and with social media everything is a fight. We have become Nietzsche’s Children, all trying to impose our will upon each other in a game of power. Shame, prestige, and popularity are all about power. Adulation, humility, and embracing are all about Love, that is with a capital “L”.
Zacchaeus had no shame, as the chief tax collector. You would have to have no shame to extort all those people. Zacchaeus had prestige because he had money. As we can see with Hollywood, gangs, and even the business world, people will let you do just about anything if you have money. Money, in our culture, IS prestige and power. Zacchaeus had popularity for the same reason. Why risk giving up all that earthly security when Jesus rolls into Jericho? That brings us to Joe Scarborough.
On his show, “Morning Joe”, Scarborough quoted an article he once saw by Tom Wolfe, although I searched and searched but could not find it. Scarborough was interviewing the reporter for Time who wrote the article on the anxiety of teens. He gave the quote, “this is the wealthiest generation in history and the most medicated.” Indeed, I was at the auto repair shop and got into a discussion with a wealthy developer of business buildings. At a certain point, I gave him my card and said, “if the stress gets to be too much, or you just want a cup of coffee, give me a call.” He replied, “thanks, padre, I have drugs for that.”
The Teens of today who are pushed beyond human limits to succeed and excel, the wealthy people who medicate themselves to handle what was supposed to give the leisure they craved, and Zacchaeus before he climbs that tree are all in the same boat: they are lost.
If there is anything that social media and the internet has proven to me, it is that we are lost as human beings. Tom Wolfe said another thing, “The internet is really just passing time.” Indeed. We fill our lives with things that we think are going to make us happy. In my very first sermon ever, I told the story of how my first child would walk through the kitchen dragging his blanket behind him and say, “I want somethin’”. I used that sentiment as a metaphor for the deep desire we have for God that cannot be filled by anything else. That Something is what Jesus offers and Zacchaeus show us how to respond to.
Jesus Christ offers us an eternal relationship with the Father in Heaven, there is no loneliness. He offers us forgiveness of sins, so there is no shame. He offers us a purpose in life, so there is no boredom. He offers us a place in his Kingdom, so there is acceptance by the Other. He offers us everything we could ever want as a human being. It is only when we stray from that fact that we begin to be in want. Loneliness creeps in because we forget the Father in Heaven, forget to pray as we ought. We forget our purpose to love and help others and think our life is without use. What is it worth to you to not be lonely, to not be purposeless, not be rejected?
Zacchaeus says by his actions that these things mean everything. They are the path to fulfillment. They are what explorers have travelled the world to find, only it was there all the time. Soren Kierkegaard gave us some of the great insights of existentialism while never traveling more than 13 miles from his home. Yet, even he had to admit that the fullness of life is found in Jesus Christ and our relationship with him. Zacchaeus points the way that a relationship with Jesus Christ, thus, the God of the Universe, fulfills every desire of the heart. Yet, we think we don’t have anything to give people and invite them to see.
A former student of mine called me this week to ask if this idea they had was good. I don’t want to give away the idea before they get it off the ground, but let me just give a sketch. They would create a way that people could give their witness for Christ, but do it anonymously. I couldn’t help but blurt out, “What good is that?” The reason I had that reaction is because it is accepting the idea that religion is private, only for personal use. It is to give the idea that faith in Jesus Christ is only good for some, not all. This story today says that faith in Jesus Christ is for all people, even the CHIEF of sinners. Zacchaeus, as pointed out by St. Theophylact, testifies that faith in Jesus Christ is worth giving up all our earthly wealth. In response to Time magazine and Joe Scarborough, we can fill up the air waves with all kinds of interest stories and quick fixes, but there is no source of fulfillment like the acceptance by the Father in Heaven through the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness of our sins is entry into the movement called the Kingdom of God. It is a place and an existence that we all carry once we give up everything else we try to put in its place.
It is a truth to believe. It is a truth to share. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian