His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros
Homily on the Sunday of Zacchaeus
January 26, 2020
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
San Francisco, California
Beloved Brother Metropolitan Gerasimos,
Dear Faithful of Annunciation Cathedral,
Christ is in our midst!
He is now;
He has always been;
and He shall ever be!
What a glorious morning of fellowship in the Holy Spirit for all of us! I count myself very blessed indeed to be with all of you this day. I wish to thank my brother, the good Metropolitan of San Francisco, for his exemplary hospitality to me, from last week and my archpastoral visit to Arizona and Hawaii until this very moment. Truly, he has offered himself in a sacrifice of true Christian φιλοξενία, enough to rival the Prophet Abraham! You are all truly blessed to have a shepherd such as Metropolitan Gerasimos, who brings a gentle and loving presence to all matters of Church life.
I am especially pleased to be in this new Temple worshipping with you and your faithful priest, Father Stephen, on this Sunday of Zacchaeus, a Sunday that speaks of enthusiasm, hospitality, honesty, and generosity. For it is this chief tax collector, a rich tax collector, and more than likely a very greedy tax collector – Zacchaeus, through whose eyes we see our Lord Jesus Christ today, and through whose story we may see our own, in the marvelous Gospel reading of the Evangelist Luke.
No doubt Zaccaheus was a much-resented man within his own community. At that time, the Jewish tax collectors for the Roman Empire made their living by exacting more – sometimes much more – than was due to Caesar. They were a feared and hated class, shunned by the religious (as we shall see in a few Sundays), and begrudged by their neighbors.
But here we see this little Zacchaeus – too short of stature to see Jesus as He passed through Jericho. The crowds blocked Zacchaeus’s view, but he was too enthusiastic to be denied. His climb up that sycamore tree is the beginning of his transformation – invisible to all around him, but plain as day to God Who sees in secret (cf. Matthew 6:6).
Zacchaeus climbs, because he has desire. He climbs, because he feels the presence of Holiness draw near. He climbs, because he will not be daunted by any obstacle. I look around this Cathedral and I see the same enthusiasm in your eyes. Some thirty years ago, both you and this city of San Francisco suffered from the terrible earthquake, and yet here you are undaunted. Your faith gave you the strength to climb back, a faith even more powerful than that of the Centurion at the Cross who, after the earthquake at the final breath of our Lord Jesus Christ, said: “Truly, this man was a son of God” (Mark 15:39). You know that He is Lord and God, the Son of God sent to this world and Risen from the dead to bring healing, redemption, and eternal life to all people.
The Lord saw much in the climb of Zacchaeus, and He sees even more in your climb to rebuild this Cathedral. For just as Zacchaeus received the Lord joyfully in his home, you have made for the Lord of Glory this Holy House to celebrate Him Sunday and after Sunday and Feast after Feast. And witness the superiority of your House: Zacchaeus entertained the Lord, but here the Lord welcomes you to His Mystical Meal, the Holy Eucharist, and feeds and nourishes your souls. Yet the hospitality of each is a miracle of faith worthy of our contemplation, because just as Zacchaeus’s house was full of sinners, we can never forget that so is the Church – all of us, equal in the eyes of the Lord and equally loved!
And in this House, just as in the home of Zacchaeus, we are called to confront ourselves with honesty, and to be of generous heart with all around us. Zacchaeus achieved both in a single sentence: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.”
Half to the poor, and four times as much to those he had squeezed dry! In one moment, the formerly rich tax collector paid his due, and made a store of treasure in Heaven.
And so it shall be with all of you. Here in this place, in the presence of your brothers and sisters in Christ, let honesty prevail, and generosity of heart, soul, and mind for each other.
The blessings and goods – τά ἀγαθά – of this world are transitory. If they do not pass away before our eyes, then we will eventually pass away taking nothing from this world to the next, except the consequences of our actions, thoughts, and will. By his acts of restoration and philanthropy in the presence of the Lord, Zacchaeus invested in the next world, and there, as the Lord said, “moth and rust do not corrupt, neither do thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).
You also, my beloved brothers and sisters, are investing in Heaven here and now, by your pious and spiritual work rebuilding your Cathedral. May it always be a place of welcome, a place of comfort, a place of mutual respect, and Christian charity. May it shelter you with spiritual solace, and may your children and your children’s children ever pass through its doors to find the presence of God – in an enthusiastic smile, a hospitable handshake, an honest embrace, and hearts that are generous, overflowing with love and compassion.
May the Lord of Glory and Prince of Peace bless you always. Amen.