An encounter with Christ is transformative. You can read in Scripture, and even see in your own life, how an encounter with Jesus can change everything. But how often do we put prayer and the sacraments on the back burner? Or how often do we feel convicted by something in our prayer life, but never follow through on it?
Recently on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Father Matthew Spencer, OSJ reflected on the Gospel story of Zacchaeus, and marveled at his boldness not only in seeking an encounter with Christ, but in following through with what that encounter meant.
“What I found myself thinking about quite a bit on Sunday was how bold Zacchaeus was,” he said. “I mean, there he is, known as a sinner. The chief sinner, the chief tax collector. He’s there and he’s wanting to meet Jesus. How bold is that?”
“Maybe he’s not right with God yet. Maybe he didn’t ‘deserve it,’ didn’t merit that encounter. But he had to get a peek. He had to get a glimpse. So he climbed up that tree, was called down by Jesus, and wouldn’t you know, the payoff and the fruit of that was that Jesus then dined at his house.”
Looking at your own life, how has your encounter with Christ changed you? Though Zacchaeus was a public sinner, after meeting Jesus he vowed to change his life and make restitution for his sins. And though our sins may not be as prominent as Zacchaeus’, our encounters with Christ also call us to repentance and restitution.
“Jesus used the opportunity to remind us that when you and I are invited by Him, when we have an encounter with Jesus, not only does He want to come dine with us, He calls us to conversion, to repentance, to make restitution for our mistakes,” Father Matthew said. “That’s what He did in this case. It can be difficult to make restitution for our sins, to do penance for the things that we’ve done wrong. It can be hard for us to make that leap. But it is part of our Christian life. It is part of what you and I are called to do.”
Another aspect of Zacchaeus’ story is what his encounter with Christ cost him. After meeting Jesus, he promised to repay those he had cheated four times the amount he took. Jesus tells us that those who are His disciples should be prepared for our relationship with Him to cost us. For Zacchaeus it cost him money, for us it may cost us money, relationships, social status, or even our jobs.
Father Matthew pointed out that though an encounter with Christ may cost us, the earthly suffering we experience is nothing compared to the glory we will experience when we are united with Christ forever in heaven. So, like Zacchaeus, we must be bold in seeking to encounter Christ and follow Him in all aspects of our lives.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to share the challenging teachings that Jesus has presented us,” he said. “It’s not because we don’t love others. It’s because we think that sharing the commandments is not an act of love. And so we shy away from doing it.”
“When there is an encounter with Jesus, when Jesus shares His law, when there is an opportunity for restitution, and when we’re invited to live the fullness of the law and the commandments, all of this is love. And in all of this, we find the path to eternal life. There’s nothing better than this. There is nothing greater than this. We should be screaming from the mountaintops, shouting the Good News to all people who will listen, so they might embrace the teachings of Jesus.”
At Relevant Radio® our mission is to bring Christ to the world through media, so all may have a life-changing encounter with Christ. But as a listener-supported network, we need YOUR help to continue this mission. Show your support for Relevant Radio by making a pledge during our Join the Family Pledge Drive this week. Every dollar counts so make your pledge today!
You can listen to the full reflection from Father Matthew below, and tune-in to Saint Joseph’s Workshop with Father Matthew Spencer weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio and the Relevant Radio App.