Daily Gospel Reflection: Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Bishop Robert Barron
November 21, 2023
Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Gospel: Lk 19:1-10
At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner." 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." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."
*United States Conference of Catholic
Bishop Robert Barron
Friends, the story of Zacchaeus recounted in today’s Gospel is a particularly clear example of one of the most basic principles in the spiritual life—namely, that moral reform follows rather than precedes the arrival of grace.
Most of us are in the grip of what Thomas Merton called “the Promethean attitude.” This is the view that, just as Prometheus had to steal fire from the gods, we have to earn the divine love through the heroic living out of certain moral demands. But this is getting things precisely backward. God’s grace always comes first—and often unbidden and unexpected. Then it works—with the recipient’s cooperation—a thorough renewal.
Zacchaeus is described as a chief tax collector, which means he was a bad man indeed. He did not merit the inrushing of grace. But the Lord accepted Zacchaeus, even though he was unacceptable.
And from this invasion of grace came a moral reformation. The tax collector didn’t merit Jesus’ love with his display of moral excellence; rather, his display of moral excellence followed from Jesus’ unmerited love. To get this principle right is to get practically the whole of the spiritual life right.