Resurrection: context

resurrection-of-christ-icon27 Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and put this question to him, 28 saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, ‘If someone’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.’ 29 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a woman but died childless. 30 Then the second 31 and the third married her, and likewise all the seven died childless. 32 Finally the woman also died. 33 Now at the resurrection whose wife will that woman be? For all seven had been married to her.” 34 Jesus said to them, “The children of this age marry and remarry; 35 but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. 36 They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise.  37 That the dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord’ the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; 38 and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39 Some of the scribes said in reply, “Teacher, you have answered well.” 40 And they no longer dared to ask him anything. Continue reading

Commitment

jesus-zacchaeusSome time you just have an itch you can’t scratch. It happens. We have gone along in life and accomplished some goals and objectives. Maybe we are the “chief” of this or that, and like Zacchaeus are wealthy. But there is something missing, something slightly off – we thought it would different after we accomplished goals. It is the thought we just can’t put our finger on. It is the itch we can’t scratch.

I suspect that is where Zacchaeus is in life. He is chief tax collector, a wealthy man – and clearly scorned by the people. Which makes sense. A tax collector had to buy the position from the Romans – so you have your investment to recover. The Romans then expect the year taxes to be collected and paid. And you course you need to make a living and some profit for a rainy day. How much profit? The Romans didn’t care. All we know is that Zacchaeus is a wealthy man, but as become so at the cost of his relationships, his people, friends, and his heritage of faith. Continue reading

When salvation comes: the lost

jesus-zacchaeus9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.

Salvation. Jesus’ words in v. 9 are literally: “Today salvation has happened to/in this house(hold), because also this one is a son of Abraham.”

What is the “salvation” that has happened? “Salvation” (soteria) is a rare word in Luke. All the other occurrences are in the Benedictus (Zechariah’s song of praise – 1:69, 71 & 77), which are in references to John the Baptist’s ministry. The related word also translated “salvation” (soterion) occurs in the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon’s cry of praise in 2:30) and in a quote from Isaiah (3:6). So outside of two songs and an OT quote, the noun “salvation” only occurs this text. (Neither of these words occur in Mt or Mk and only once in John – although we have already encountered a related verb “to heal/save” (sozo) and will again in v. 10 below. Continue reading

When salvation comes: warning

jesus-zacchaeusGrace and Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship) at the advent of WWII wrote famously on “cheap grace.”  I include a long excerpt from his writing as someone who perhaps can be accused of being Pharisaic – yet knowing that he is writing in the shadow of Nazi Germany and the increasingly silent Christian Churches – the words make a case that there is indeed a dark side to “cheap grace.”


Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace. Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing….[45] Continue reading

When salvation comes:

jesus-zacchaeusZacchaeus’ Speech. Zacchaeus, in spite of his reputation, is an attractive person. In our brief meeting, qualities akin to those of Peter emerge. Zacchaeus is spontaneous and impetuous, given to extravagant statements. But there is a deep genuineness. Though he is a person of some importance, his position does not prevent him from climbing the sycamore tree nor from publicly admitting his guilt and professing his repentance. Jesus says this is a son of Abraham, even if he is a tax collector. He should not be ostracized because of his failings but helped to find his way back to the flock. Continue reading

When salvation comes: today

jesus-zacchaeusAt first glance we might expect this to be another parable challenging the rich. The rich have not fared well in Luke’s gospel. Jesus pronounces woes upon the rich (6:24). God called the rich farmer a fool (12:16, 20) and required his soul of him. The rich man went to Hades while Lazarus went to the bosom of Abraham, and Jesus observed how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (18:23, 25).  Zacchaeus is a “wealthy man” (19:2)

Yet, Zacchaeus is like the others in previous stories of Jesus – people faced with obstacles (18:3-4, 15, 39); he is of low social status and esteem as are the widow, the toll collector, children and a blind beggar.  Yet, like the rich ruler (18:18-30), Zacchaeus is a person of power, privilege and position – people not easily ignored.  Whereas the Rich Ruler’s self assessment is that he keeps all the commandments, Zacchaeus, according to popular opinion is a sinner. Zacchaeus is a “Son of Abraham” and yet serves the Roman Imperia to the detriment of this own people and to his financial benefit.  In a way Zacchaeus is a pivotal character whose characteristics straddle the boundaries. Then who can be saved? (18:26).  The story of Zacchaeus answer the question that has flowed in and out of the Jerusalem travel narrative (since 9:51) as Jesus asserts, Today salvation has come to this house (19:9) – all in the unmerited grace of Christ. Continue reading

When salvation comes: context

jesus-zacchaeus1 He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. 2 Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 3 was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 5 When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he came down quickly and received him with joy. 7 When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.Continue reading

It ain’t over

Pharisee-n-Tax Collector3In our gospel story, the tax collector went home justified. Sure, he has been extorting people, shaking them down for the Roman overlords and some profit for himself. Sure, he is considered a traitor and an outcast from Jewish life – someone whose life is “breaking bad.”  But he has reached a moment of conversion, right?  He is about to get right with God; get justified.  Here is the one moment, a moment when all the trappings of life are torn away, he finally sees himself in humble relationship to God: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  The tax collector went home justified. Continue reading

Forming a moral conscience

conscience-aheadIt is a common refrain: the “Vatican” and “bishops” are out of touch with the people of the United States. It rises to the surface whenever the bishops, in their role as teachers of the faith, offer moral guidance – and every four years in our presidential election cycle. Such proclamations often include some veiled reference to Catholics being required to have slavish adherence to every pronouncement. Actually the Church’s position is quite surprising to the “experts” and Catholic alike. I believe the Church’s position on the formation of a moral conscience is one of the better kept secrets of Catholic life. Continue reading

Empathy and grace: parables

Pharisee-n-Tax Collector3A Parable of Reversal? I tell you, the latter [tax collector] went home justified. We might object to God forgiving the tax collector. He doesn’t actually confess any sins. He makes no statement of repentance. He doesn’t offer to change his life. He doesn’t make any reparations for his sins (as the tax collector Zacchaeus does). This appears to be very cheap grace. This parable probably should not be understood as an example story, but is it simply a story of reversal, as the final saying indicates. If the Pharisee is viewed as a villain and the tax collector a hero, besides the historical inaccuracies, the parable loses its power. They have only received what they deserved. There is no need for the reversal in this last verse. Continue reading