Sunday After Theophany & Zacchaeus
We hear in today’s Holy Gospel a quotation from Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, And upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, Light has dawned.’ This quote from the prophecy of Isaiah is presented to us by the Evangelist Matthew in the context of his description of Christ’s baptism by John in the Jordan.
The great event of Christ’s baptism is the manifestation of the Holy Trinity and Christ shines forth His Light to the world. Indeed, in the Kontakion of the feast of Theophany we sing: ‘Thou hast appeared today to the whole world, and Thy light, O Lord, hath been signed upon us who hymn Thee with understanding. Thou hast come, Thou hast appeared, the Light unapproachable.’
Christ’s appearance to mankind brings Light to the world. But as we hear in the opening verses of the Gospel of St John: ‘In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.’
The Light of Christ’s love and truth shines upon us and upon the whole world, but we do not comprehend it. Indeed, it is quite often the case that we prefer the darkness of our selfishness to the Light of Christ’s selfless love. This is the great tragedy of mankind and of ourselves…
We are so easily entangled in sin and darkness. How do we move out of that darkness and into the Light of Christ?
Our Lord gives us the prescription in His first sermon coming out of the waters of the Jordan… He exclaimed: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
To repent means to make a change… to turn from one way to another way.
We are sitting in darkness and in order to move away from darkness and toward the Light, we have to turn around and take action to move toward the Light. It is not enough for us to simply become aware of the Light. We can be aware of the Light, we can appreciate the Light, we can love the Light from the comfort of our armchair in the depths of our cave of darkness …
In order to truly embrace that Light and to live in that Light, we have to take action – we have to get up from that comfortable and familiar chair and we must turn away from our dark cave and step out into the Light.
This is Christ’s call of repentance… that we turn away from darkness and step forward into the Light of His love.
This call to action is demonstrated for us in the Sunday Gospel for this day. Zacchaeus longed to get a glimpse of Jesus as He was passing by, but because of his short stature and the great crowd of people, he could not have a clear view. So Zacchaeus, in his zeal, climbed into the branches of a sycamore tree to get a view of our Lord as He passed by. When Jesus came along this way, He made a point of stopping and looking up to Zacchaeus, calling out to him to ‘make haste and come down – for I desire to stay in your house this day’.
Just like Zacchaeus, our sins make us ‘short of stature’ spiritually. Our vision of God is often lost and obscured because we cannot see past the obstacles of the world and our daily concerns. These worries, distractions, and temptations block our view from seeing God. We should take inspiration from Zacchaeus… we must take action and find the means to somehow climb above the tumult of the worldliness in which we live in order to gain perspective and get a glimpse of God. We must pull ourselves up from the obstacles of the world… we do this primarily through prayer and through a conscious awareness of the presence of God in our daily lives.
Once we’ve raised ourselves above the worldliness of our lives, we then need to have the courage to ‘go out on a limb’ and step forward in faith and trust. We must take the risk of reaching out to God in faith.
And God will then see our efforts… and He may then call us to ‘make haste and come down – for I desire to stay in your house this day’. We must be prepared to respond to the call of God… aligning our will with His will… drawing nigh with fear and faith and love.
Let us hear the call of Christ! He calls us repentance, to turn away from darkness and to turn toward the Light of Christ. This can be a frightening thing to do… for we move from what is familiar into the mysterious territory of God. It requires incredible trust… yet, we may take courage that God does not leave us to our own devices in traveling this narrow path of repentance. He nourishes us and encourages us with the grace of His sacraments… Holy Communion, Confession and Forgiveness, Baptism, and every year at this time we are blessed with the holy waters of Theophany – which cleanse ourselves and our homes with their grace and spiritual refreshment.
The renewing waters of Theophany are God’s gift to us as we begin the new year… equipping us first with God’s grace to then take action toward repentance, toward turning from whatever darkness their might be in our lives and taking those decisive steps toward the Light and Love of Christ.
May He Who has enlightened the world, fill our lives with His Light!