“How many politicians, who spent their time organizing their supporters & contending with opponents, were prepared to understand those Zacchaeuses to take a sincere & respectful interest in them & “address them by name,” talk to them, make their acquaintance? Maybe on account of that failure, many “tax collectors” didn’t change their lives, many wrongs were not righted, & many hopes were dashed. Zacchaeuses may appear to some to be an incorrigible individualist, an “outsider” ; where people are only too ready to line up in enthusiastic or angry ranks, he instinctively seeks a hiding place in the branches of a fig tree. He doesn’t do so out of pride, as it might appear; after all, he is well aware of his “small stature” & his great failings, of his shortcomings vis-à-vis absolute postulates & challenges. Yet he is able & willing to abandon his privacy& his detachment if “addressed by name” – then, all of a sudden, he just might accept those absolute challenges & change his life. The only person capable of addressing Zacchaeus, however, is someone for whom those people hidden in the branches of a fig tree are not strangers or aliens - someone who doesn’t disdain them, who has concern for them, someone who can respond to what happens in their hearts & minds. There are plenty of Zacchaeuses in our midst. The fate of our world, our church, & society depends more than we are willing to admit on the extent to which these Zacchaeuses will be won over or not. I finished my meditation, but the story of Zacchaeus was still on my mind. I walked here & there through pre-Christmas Prague & strove to identify why it was that this particular passage had caught my imagination so strongly. & then I realised that this very story could help to achieve a clearer & deeper understanding of what I had long regarded subconsciously as my own particular mission & vocation. In my pastoral work as a priest, but also in all my other fields of activity – my books & articles, university teaching, & the media – my aim has always been neither “converting the converted,” nor caring for the orderly sheep of the flock., nor even engaging in never-ending polemics & disputes with opponents. I don’t think my chief vocation ought to be “mission” in the classical sense, if by that one means winning over as many people as possible to one’s own church flock or political persuasion. I feel that my chief purpose is to be an understanding neighbour for those who find it impossible to join the exultant crowds beneath the unfurled flags of whatever colour, for those who keep their distance. I like Zacchaeuses. I think I have been given the gift of understanding them. People often construe the distance that Zacchaeuses maintain as an expression of their “superiority,” but I don’t think they are right-things aren’t that simple. In my experience, it is more the result of shyness. In some cases, the reason for their aversion to crowds, particularly ones with slogans & banners, is that they suspect the truth is too fragile to be chanted on the street.” (Patience & God; Tomas Halik)
Last Sunday, the Feast of Corpus Christi, we welcomed our 6 young disciples at their First Holy Communion. It was a special day for them, their families & friends, together with us as their parish family. I am grateful to the 163 who came for the celebration, & to those who provided the celebration cake & refreshments afterwards. Please keep them in your prayers. On Tuesday morning our SVP group met with the mini-vinnies form St Benedict’s PS at a joint meeting in the Parish Hall, where each group was able to explain their prayer & work under the inspiration of St Vincent de Paul for the poor, the sick & the disadvantaged within our locality & further afield. They each twinned & now have a prayer partner to rely on for daily support in their ministry. Thank you to those of you who have completed a Data Protection Consent Form. 45 have been returned to date. Please could I encourage others who may have been away the last 2 weekends to take home and complete the Form. We need a Consent Form for each family member over the age of thirteen. It would be helpful if you would name children under thirteen on your own individual Consent Form. Until we receive your Form we are not permitted to make contact with you, as you have yet to give your express permission. There have been 4 occasions this week where I was unable to make contact with individuals for whom I have as yet no consent.. Could I encourage you to ask members of your family who do not attend our Parish, or who attend elsewhere, to consider being registered with us here? We hold pastoral responsibility for all baptised Catholics who live within our parish boundaries, & it is helpful for the spiritual, administrative & practical well-being of the Parish that we are fully aware of those to whom we owe the love & duty of care. Could I encourage you to come to our Parish Forum this Sun at 11.15am in the Parish Hall. Following our previous Forums in recent weeks, a newly formed Vision Group has met twice & they will feedback to us. A useful chart shows impressively the various spiritual, practical & financial needs we attempt to meet within the Parish. We will keep you well informed of proposals & will continue to invite your comments & wise counsel. With love & prayers Fr Bede.