Confronted By Jericho

Congratulations SJS athletics on good fall seasons

Letters from a Pastor to His People- November 3, 2019

Dear Parishioners,

We have been reading for several weeks now the "travel narrative"—Jesus' journey towards Jerusalem after the conclusion of his Galilean ministry.  This week we read about his stop in Jericho, a town about twenty miles outside Jerusalem. 

Herod the Great had built up Jericho and Herod's son, Archelaus, erected a massive palace and was currently living in it.  Jericho was, therefore, somewhat of an abject city.  Proof of this is that the chief tax collector of the entire region, Zacchaeus, made his residence there.  Zacchaeus was fairly immoral.  Tax collectors were generally dishonest, and Zacchaeus even more so.  Ironically, the name Zacchaeus meant "pure."  I'm sure tax payers and even fellow tax collectors scoffed whenever they saw the short man and heard his name.

Jesus arrives in this slimy city like an earthquake.  He has an immediate impact.  We don't read it about in the Lectionary, but immediately before the scene with Zacchaeus, Jesus heals a blind beggar and everyone watching "gave praise to God" (Luke 18:43). 

As Christ enters the city gates, Zacchaeus climbs up a tree.  Think of a very prominent public official today doing something so undignified.  That alone would have struck the crowd.  Author Frank Sheed remarks, "the people near the tree must have been as much interested in the tax collector up at as in the carpenter coming their way."

That is the impact of Christ.  Our Lord's very presence converted another tax collector earlier in the Gospel--Levi, who would become Saint Matthew.  He does the same again.  Matthew was sick and Jesus, the Divine Physician, healed him (cf. Luke 5:32).  Zacchaeus was lost and Jesus, the Good Shepherd who goes after the one lost sheep, found him.  "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10).

I hear, from time to time, people tell me how they are discouraged or even hopeless—about their family, about the city, about the church, about themselves.  They are confronted by "Jericho."  If this describes you, friend, then take heed of the Gospel.  Jesus entered Jericho and he completed transformed it and its inhabitants.  So, have hope.  He will do the same with your "Jericho" whatever that is.

The parish annual report was in last week's bulletin and is also online, if you haven't yet seen it (along with a video).  I have received a lot of questions about our plans with the money we raised from the Queen of Hearts raffle (over $650,000).  We have several large projects that we will be able to accomplish.  Currently, we are doing major tuck-pointing work along the south school wall, as there has been leaking in one of the classrooms over the years.  We will then tuck-point the south wall of the church, which also has some leaking causing the mortar damage to the brick.  We are renovating the back meeting rooms of the parish center: the large gathering room, the library, the back storage room, the old food pantry, and the kitchen.  New flooring, paint, and a new kitchen will make this a much better meeting place for our many groups. In the near future we will be painting and updating all the school classrooms and hallways, which haven't been touched in many years.  The school hall/lunchroom will be renovated over the summer, as well as the parking lot.  Finally, we are exploring some improvements to the interior of the church: new lighting, painting the ceiling, among some other things.  A lot to be accomplished, and we are blessed to be able to do it!


Yours in Christ,

Fr. James

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