Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
According to the Gospels, whose life and lifestyle changed the most after they encountered Jesus?

Perhaps the best answer to that question (and the most obvious) is the apostles.  That is made clear by Peter's own statement to Jesus in which he said, "We have left everything to follow you.  That included their livelihood, perhaps their families, obviously their routine and many if not all of the things they were used to doing before they followed Jesus.

I think one could make the case, after the apostles, that Zacchaeus, is the one whose lifestyle must have changed the most after encountering Jesus.  It tells us in today's Gospel, that he pledged to Jesus that he would give half of all his belongings to the poor and repay 4 times the amount of money he had defrauded people of, in his time as a tax collector.

And given the fact that it tells us clearly that he was a rich man (at the beginning of the Gospel) and I think we can suppose that he had been like most tax collectors who were employed by the Romans, and who demanded even more than what the people owed in taxes to pad their own pocket, Zacchaeus was in for quite a change of lifestyle after he saw through on his promise to Jesus.

While I would be hesitant to say, (and it's not up to make such a judgement) that any or all of us needs to undergo such a dramatic change in our lifestyle, I would still say that, Zacchaeus is an example to us and a challenge to us to literally do what he did (at least in giving half of what we have to the poor) and in thereby changing our lifestyle perhaps for some, drastically, I would still say that Zacchaeus's experience should challenge us to be more generous with money and possessions, than we have been or are right now.

In some sense I think one could say, that Zacchaeus's profound experience with Jesus holds him up to us as a changed Ebenezer Scrooge, long before Charles Dickens created that character and the story we know so well at Christmas.

If you recall from that Christmas Classic, after Scrooge had changed from being miserly and hoarding his money and possessions, he became a person filled with exuberance and great joy, that perhaps stayed with him the rest of his life, had to do over time with his newfound habit of generosity--Tiny Tim-others.

So too, we can imagine Zacchaeus filled with ongoing joy, as he became generous and experienced many blessings from it, including the words of Jesus, that must have echoed in his mind for the rest of his life: " SALVATION HAS COME TO THIS HOUSE !!!!!

I can say without hesitation, that the more we truly encounter Christ and Christ-like people, the more likely it is that we will become more generous with the money and possessions we have and experience great joy/satisfaction-will come with it.

I say thankfully to God that we are blessed with more than a few in this congregation who are generous on an ongoing basis when it comes to God's work through the Church and among the poor and needy, AND who also come through generously when needs suddenly arise or come once a year (CASA-300).

For all of us, and maybe even for some of these people, the call to generosity will be tested over the next three weeks and really for the next two months and I dare for conversion in all of us in order for all of these special needs to be met....good results.

Next weekend the Lord is calling on generous hearts to support the archdiocese for the military to help support the efforts of the Catholic Church to minister to Catholic military personnel and their families. PLEASE read the insert in the bulletin to find out why we have this appeal once every three years and who will be helped by it.

The following weekend we will take up a second collection to support our efforts to help needy families in our area for Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially with food that will help make their Thanksgiving and Christmas brighter and better.

Then the following weekend, we join the appeal throughout the Church in the United States to help people to try to get out of their situation of poverty through projects supported by the Campaign for Human Development, which has many success stories in the 40 or so years that these opportunities have been created.

Then after a short break, we will have in the first weekend in December the opportunity to be generous to the religious men and women who were so generous to God's people in their ministry for very little financial compensation and are now retired in their religious communities that are not able to support the sick and retired brothers and sisters largely because of a lack of vocations to their religious orders.

Finally on Christmas Eve and Christmas, we will ask for generous hearts to come through in support of our retired, sick and infirmed priests of our diocese, those who need it now and those who will need it when they are retired or are unable to minister to God's people due to sickness.

That's a lot of need.......and I'm not about to rank these 5 needs from most important to least some can decide which to be generous to and which to give a little or nothing to.

I'm just thankful that we have an example of wonderful generosity for us to ponder in the person of Zacchaeus.

And I pray (and I ask you to do so as well)  that all of us will have an encounter with Jesus, like his, and be changed as needed either greatly or slightly in the way of generosity soon and for the rest of our lives.

Fill in the blank.....God loves  A  CHEERFUL  GIVER.

Hope that means all of us.