By Derick Cranston
(Author’s note: the following reflection was made at an Ignatian retreat I attended in early June. The dialogue in the last two paragraphs is based on a poem by the Jesuit Michael Moynahan, titled “The Outhouse.”)
And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up into the tree and shouted to him with a broad grin and a twinkle in his eye, “Zacchae ‘us, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today!” He softly chuckled to himself as the short little tax collector scampered down the tree and joyfully greeted Jesus. The crowds murmured, but he and Zacchae ‘us paid them no mind. Zacchae ‘us gleefully bellowed, “I will give half my possessions to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone, I shall repay it fourfold!”
Will we come down off our tree, our pedestal, when Christ calls to us? Will we greet him joyfully and allow Christ to enter into our house of our heart and soul? These are questions we must ask ourselves if we are ever truly to have a relationship with Christ.
To have Christ in our life we must not only seek to see him from the high vantage point of prayer, but also be willing to humble ourselves and come back down to earth so we can joyfully greet the Risen One. This means letting go of unnecessary possessions and giving back fourfold to anyone we have taken from either physically, emotionally or mentally. This is the only way we can let Christ come into the house of our inner most being.
Back to our story. Mary looked on from the distance as she traveled with Magdalene and the other women following Jesus. As she saw the whole scene unfold before her, she reminisced about another time they were seeking a place to stay but were not having much luck … “It doesn’t look good, all their rooms are taken,” said Joseph. In a humble but confident way, Mary softly said, “Don’t worry, God will provide. He will give us what we need.” Joseph heard, but was still doubtful and getting a little anxious. They had the door slammed in their faces at the first two houses, and he wearily led himself and the donkey carrying her to the third house.
The owner was starting to tell them that his house was full, but the owner’s wife interrupted when she saw Mary wince from the movements of the child in her womb. She interrupted her husband and said, “You can have the place out back. It’s not much, but at least you will have shelter. There is fresh hay, and the animals won’t bother you. I will get some rags and some warm water. Go on now.” Mary shyly looked up at the woman and her face lit up. She gave a slight smile and proclaimed, “Magnificat!”
(Derick Cranston is youth minister for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He is going through diaconate formation and can be reached at email@example.com.)