Archive for the ‘Zacchaeus’ Category

Have A Holy Halloween!—31st Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year C

October 31, 2010

Have you ever noticed how our Christian holidays get filled with stuff that distracts us from what we’re really celebrating? Take Christmas, for example. There’s nothing wrong with exchanging gifts and decorating with tress and lights, but there is good reason in that season that we need be reminded, to “Keep Christ in Christmas.” For many people, celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace on earth is the most stressful time of the year. Or consider Easter: There’s nothing wrong with chocolate bunnies and hunting for Easter eggs, but the connection between egg-laying rabbits and Jesus’ resurrection is tenuous at best.

However, this disconnection between Christian holy days and the cultural observance of holidays is the greatest when it comes to Halloween. There’s nothing wrong with kids playing dress-up and going door-to-door to ask for candy, (I have many happy memories of this myself,) but Halloween’s connection to its Christian holy day seems to have been forgotten. The name “Halloween” comes from “All Hallows Eve,” or the evening before All Saint’s Day. Something is “Hallowed” when it is sanctified or respected, as in, “Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” All Saints Day celebrates the “hallowed” ones, the holy ones, the saints who are now in Heaven. Some of these saints are canonized, but most of them are not.

For every friend and relative we knew on earth who is now in Heaven, November 1st is their feast day in the Church. And for our holy dead who are still being purified and made perfect so that they may enter the fully-unveiled presence of our infinite God, there is November 2nd, the Feast of All Souls. In this fall season, when the natural world appears dying, our Church celebrates the holy dead, for we have hope in the new life.

Halloween, or “All Hallows Eve,” is to All Saints Day what Christmas Eve is to Christmas. As Christmas Eve reminds us of Christ’s coming, so Halloween should remind us of the victory of the saints, and of our own life’s calling: to become the best possible versions of ourselves, to become saints.

I think it is in no way an overreaction to observe that the secular observance of Halloween has overtones in dark, demonic things; the things of horror. Isn’t it suspicious that from a feast celebrating the saints in light, we have a secularized holiday focused on things of darkness? Instead of Christian hope in the resurrection of the dead, Halloween gives us images of zombies. Instead of the consolation that we are surrounded by the perfected souls of the saints, who love us and are full of concern to help us, Halloween gives us tales of ghosts and demons who want to harm and scare us. How does this sort of thing happen? I don’t think it is crazy to think that the Evil One wants to distract people from the true reason for this season; that the Devil would have us thinking about him, rather than the saints, that he wants us to be terrified, rather than full of hope.

Did you know that this Sunday, Satanic worshipers will come to Masses and Catholic Churches around the country trying to steal our Lord in the Eucharist? (Interestingly, they don’t go after the communions of Protestant denominations, but only the Catholic Eucharistic Hosts.) Their plan is to desecrate Jesus in a ritual they call a Black Mass. In doing this they are trying to rebel, seeking a false freedom that cannot make them happy. They try to harm Jesus, but only hurt Him in as much as they sadden Him. These sad people, who strike out at Jesus, are really hurting themselves and the Jesus still loves them. We know that the Lord loves every person He has made, for as the first reading notes, if the Lord did not love His creations, they would not continue to exist. As we see in today’s gospel about Zacchaeus the sinful tax-collector, there is hope for them and all of us, for Jesus “has come to seek and to save what was lost,” and He calls every one of us to be happy and holy with Him.

This Halloween, let us pray for the misguided persons, who knowingly or unknowingly, will dabble in bad things tonight, that they may turn to Christ. Let also offer Jesus our consolation for how the feelings of His Sacred Heart will be wounded by their offenses against His love. And for ourselves, let us try celebrating Halloween in some different ways this year.

Maybe everyone in your household already has their trick-or-treat costumes ready (but I know it can sometimes be a last minute decision.) If you’re still looking for costume ideas, how about dressing up as an awesome saint? Saint costumes can be easy and very creative. Dressing like this delights the saints (and it will probably score you more candy.)

Does your family have a patron saint? If not, then pick one this Halloween and entrust your family to them for the year ahead. Print off their picture from the internet and put it on the wall, learn about them as a family, and pray to them, asking that they pray for you. (I, for myself, am choosing St. John Vianney this year; the patron saint of priests and a good guy to know.) Great saints are waiting, just waiting, to grow in friendship with you.

This year, make it a point to celebrate the vigils and feasts of All Saints and All Souls. Our family and friends who are now in Heaven or on their way there expect us to be joyful on these feast days in their honor, and there is not better place for us on earth to draw near to them than here, around the altar of Jesus Christ.

Christ is the Light who shines through the darkness. This Halloween, let us claim the night for Jesus Christ and His saints.

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Tuesday, 33rd Week in Ordinary Time—Year I

November 17, 2009

Imagine if the United States of America, with all its freedoms and rights, were not the United States of America, and on your way to school today, you were stopped along roadside by the secret police. They ask you for your name. You cooperate give it. Then they order you to put your hands on the hood of the squad car. They handcuff you and place you under arrest.

You ask them, “What’s going on? What have I done?” They reply, “You’re under arrest for the charge that you are a believing Catholic Christian.” You didn’t realize it, but the police have had you under intense surveillance for the past several weeks, wire-tapping your phone, monitoring your computer, searching your personal belongs, and watching all your movements and activities.

Imagine yourself in this situation. This is the question I pose to you: At your trial, when all of the evidence they have gathered is presented against you, will there be enough to convict you? Would there be sufficient evidence to find you guilty of being a believing Catholic Christian? What would they have on you?

Would they have testimony from informants that you observe every Friday as a day of penance, that you keep every Sunday as a special, day of rest, and faithfully go to Mass and frequent the sacrament of reconciliation? Could anyone testify against you that they heard you saying positive things about Jesus Christ, or that you spoke up for the Catholic faith when it was mocked or criticized in your presence? Could they put into evidence a rosary, or a Bible, or some other Catholic book, marked with fresh traces of DNA from your fingertips? Would they have hidden camera footage of you praying before meals at school or at restaurants? Would they have grainy night-vision footage of you praying before going to bed, or praying the first thing in the morning, making the tell-tale sign of the cross.

A few hours after your arrest you find yourself in a courtroom (because the “people’s” authoritarian government believes in speedy trials.) The intimidating judge looks down at you from the bench, “It says here that you were picked up on your way to the Columbus school. We have evidence of illegal Christian propaganda being taught there and we also have reliable reports that various Catholic rituals are done there, superstitions which are offensive to reason and the spirit of our times. Now I imagine that you went to that school because that’s where your parents sent you. And I’m sure that your parents would be shocked to discover that such repugnant activities as these are happening at your school.”

The judge continues, “The punishment for being found guilty of being a believing Catholic Christian is a grave one. But… if you were simply mixed-up in these activities, unthinkingly, by accident—if you were just doing them because that’s what everyone else around you was doing—well then that would be a different story. Spies and traders may come to our government rallies, but that doesn’t make them loyal citizens now does it? So just going through the motions doesn’t make you a believing Catholic at all, am I right?”

“So I can completely understand how this regretable misunderstanding has occurred. You didn’t really understand what you were doing did you? Now if you would simply formally renounce any and all belief in these silly superstitions, you may go on your way. Just sign your name here on this piece of paper testifying to that effect, and you’re free to go.”

What would you do? What do you wish you would have the courage to do? Would we have the courage to refuse to sign, just as Eleazar refused to eat? The eating of a little meat, like the movement of a pen, is a small act, but Eleazar refused and accepted an unjust death because to do otherwise would mean a rejection of the Lord, the one true God, the King of all other kings.

Now it is very unlikely that you or I will ever have to lay down our lives as red, or bloody martyrs for our faith in Christ. But, like Zacchaeus, there will be certainly times when we will have to go out on a limb for Christ. The crowd laughed to see the rich man Zacchaeus up in that tree, but what did Zacchaeus care about? His focus was totally fixed upon his connection with Jesus Christ.

Be like Eleazar, and don’t swallow whatever the world sets before you, because a lot of it is not good and can alienate you from God. Be like Zacchaeus, with the courage to go out on a limb regardless of what other people might think or say, for the sake of your relationship with Christ.

[The images for this post come from the movie Sophie Scholl–The Final Days. If you liked A Man for All Seasons, you’ll like this one too (but I’ll warn you up front that it ends the same way.)]