2 MC 6:18-31
Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes,
a man of advanced age and noble appearance,
was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork.
But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement,
he spat out the meat,
and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture,
as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food
which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life.
Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately,
because of their long acquaintance with him,
and urged him to bring meat of his own providing,
such as he could legitimately eat,
and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice
prescribed by the king;
in this way he would escape the death penalty,
and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him.
But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner,
worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age,
the merited distinction of his gray hair,
and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood;
and so he declared that above all
he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God.
He told them to send him at once
to the abode of the dead, explaining:
“At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense;
many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar
had gone over to an alien religion.
Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life,
they would be led astray by me,
while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age.
Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men,
I shall never, whether alive or dead,
escape the hands of the Almighty.
Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now,
I will prove myself worthy of my old age,
and I will leave to the young a noble example
of how to die willingly and generously
for the revered and holy laws.”
Eleazar spoke thus,
and went immediately to the instrument of torture.
Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed,
now became hostile toward him because what he had said
seemed to them utter madness.
When he was about to die under the blows,
he groaned and said:
“The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that,
although I could have escaped death,
I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging,
but also suffering it with joy in my soul
because of my devotion to him.”
This is how he died,
leaving in his death a model of courage
and an unforgettable example of virtue
not only for the young but for the whole nation.
PS 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
R. (6b) The Lord upholds me.
O LORD, how many are my adversaries!
Many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“There is no salvation for him in God.”
R. The Lord upholds me.
But you, O LORD, are my shield;
my glory, you lift up my head!
When I call out to the LORD,
he answers me from his holy mountain.
R. The Lord upholds me.
When I lie down in sleep,
I wake again, for the LORD sustains me.
I fear not the myriads of people
arrayed against me on every side.
R. The Lord upholds me.
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.”
“… Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5)
Most, if not all, students in public schools have practically no idea about God or their faith. It was because the public school system was designed in a way that it held no biases for a specific religion or race, but this particular public school somewhere in Makati chose to hold a special class about the Christian faith for its students and they badly needed teachers for it. Our school volunteered us, the students, to teach our co-students about God.
I gladly answered yes. It was a heartwarming experience to see a set of students, usually rowdy and noisy, sit down seriously to listen to another student they barely know talk about God and faith. Most of the concepts I taught them were things they’ve never heard of and they were excited to learn more and more about their faith. A lot of them had glittering eyes whenever they had a realization that God is amazing and God loves them very much. The irony is that they weren’t the only ones who had their own realizations about their faith. I, too, had a huge realization about my faith. I realized that no matter how I thought I was saved, I still had a long way to go before I can say I am no longer a sinner.
Brothers and sisters, the Lord is reminding us to climb down our sycamore trees today. Most of the time, we are stuck high up in our trees hoping to get a good view of Jesus. We are stuck in our trees pretending to be superior to sinners when in fact you are still very much a sinner.
Climb down your trees today! It does not matter if your feet gets dirty or if your hands are wounded, because in the end, the only time you’d get closer to heaven and God is when you hit the dirt for your faith.
Father God, inspire me today to climb down my tree. Inspire me today to help the countless lost souls that have not encountered You. Amen.