The text I’ve quoted here is not today’s gospel, but it is confirmed by a beautiful incident in today’s gospel, one very familiar to us. Today’s gospel is about Zacchaeus, the tax collector who, in order to just see Jesus, climbed a sycamore tree. He saw him, and was transformed by the encounter. Jesus called him by name, and invited himself into Zacchaeus’ home, and we might say, into his life. Zacchaeus, transformed by Jesus’ attention to him, is moved to give half of his possessions to the poor and to reimburse fourfold any that he may have defrauded.
The teaching is clear: those who seek Jesus will find him. He will reveal himself to them, and they will be transformed. Share this message with anyone you know who you think is looking for a gospel in their lives, without knowing what they are looking for. Make suggestions as to how they might seek him out. Invite them to Mass, or to a Mission Ablaze prayer meeting, or to an R.C.I.A. evening, or to a Light of Jesus feast in our gymnasium on Sunday afternoons, or to an evening of the Christian Life Programme that is currently being run by CFC-FFL, or Alpha, which begins next February. In our parish alone, there are multiple options for a potential encounter with Christ, with his gospel, with his church.
The only thing missing in fact, is a reflex in us to invite people who are searching, to “come and see” Jn 1,39. We hold a treasure that was never intended for us alone. Yes, not everyone is interested in our treasure. In fact, in this place and time, fewer and fewer are. Yes, it’s probable that few will take us up on this invitation. Yes, there’s always the risk that our invitation will not be well received. But could it be that God wants to pass through us, through a modest suggestion, to touch the hearts and lives of people who are a part of our lives? I always wonder, with a bit of dread, whether in heaven, I will meet up with someone with whom I was acquainted in this life, and who will look at me with a hurt, puzzled expression, and say to me, bewildered: “All along, when we were together on earth, you knew about this. You knew about Jesus, about the gospel, about the Church, about the Kingdom, and you never said a word. Why?”
My last point: this reflex of proposing our gospel, and the concrete means to have access to it, to outsiders, is incumbent upon you, as laity, above all. By the very nature of our ministry, we priests, religious men and women, and even up to a point, the laity heavily involved in ministry, are “stuck” at the heart of the church, almost always surrounded by people who share our convictions. The people in need of the gospel are part and parcel of your daily lives, far more than they are of ours. So if you don’t propose that they check out our gospel, and to access the gospel, our church, then who will?
I leave you with this question to ponder. It’s an important one.