Change us, O Lord

Sister Barbara Ann Mayer, OSB

There’s a wonderful story in Luke 19:1-10 about a tax collector named Zacchaeus that was the gospel for last Sunday in Catholic, Episcopalian, Lutheran and some other churches.

Zacchaeus had heard about Jesus and wanted to see this miracle-worker for himself. Since he was short, he climbed a tree to see him better. He was surprised when Jesus caught sight of him and told him to come down because he wanted to eat at his house. Zacchaeus immediately told Jesus he would repay four-fold anything he had taken fraudulently and give half his wealth to the poor. He was a changed man.

In her introduction to the Sunday liturgy, Sister Anne Shepard, our prioress, suggested that we be ready for the ways Jesus wants to change us this week. When I thought about that, I began reflecting on what needed changing in my life.

The first thing that came to mind was to take more time to listen to people. I tend to always be in a hurry to finish my to-do list and neglect to really be present to those I encounter throughout the day. It takes just a few minutes to listen to another’s need or news and respond with a word of cheer or sympathy, yet it can lift that person’s spirits.

Another thing I thought of was to stop procrastinating. I might have good intentions to do something, but I often put it off until later. Soon I forget and nothing happens because the opportunity passes or other things crowd out what I intended to do. Someone once said, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Still another thing I’d like to change is my tendency to judge others. When I see others erring or acting in ways that are hurtful, I quickly criticize them in my mind without knowing what their struggles are or what their day has held. I would like to be one who always gives people the benefit of the doubt and tries to see the good in them.

Then I thought about what God would want to change in me. I know he accepts me just as I am, but I could be so much more. He wants me to be the very best I can be and is more than willing to help me become my best self. He wants to give me more courage to face my fears, both imagined and real. He desires to heal the wounded parts of my psyche that keep me enslaved to my addictions. He challenges me to take advantage of the grace he sends each day to strengthen my weaknesses and enliven my spirit.

Change is not easy and takes a lot of resolve and patience. Not too many of us change in an instant like Zacchaeus. A readiness to see opportunities and examine our lives at the end of each day to see ways we have been kind or where we have failed to act justly. We are accountable for the actions we take or don’t take to make our part of the world better.

Sometimes we are unaware of deeply ingrained habits that irritate others or keep us bound. We might ask a friend or spiritual companion to help us see what needs changing in ourselves. One who knows us well could give us insight into our blind spots.

Zacchaeus was surprised that Jesus chose to eat with him in spite of his ill repute. This brought about a conversion in him. May we, too, be changed in surprising ways.