And he came down quickly and received him with joy”.

Today’s Gospel passage shows us the way we should respond to Jesus’ call: quickly and joyfully. These elements reflect the two aspects of our encounter with God; there is a hurriedness to go to meet the Lord Jesus, followed by the consequence of the presence of the Lord in our lives: joy.

Acting in haste is one of the difficult things that we need to work on. We are called to do good and to do it quickly; any delay in doing so is fraught with consequences. The result sometimes is that in delaying our encounter with the Lord, the precise opportunity that was open to us may have passed us by.  How many times have we considered helping others – or not –  and when we have finally decided to do so, that person is no longer there? Yes, there will surely be other opportunities; but this one, we let go.

For this reason, we need to do good and to do it quickly. As in Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus, when we are sure of what is right and of our ability to accomplish it, there is no reason to wait. We cannot delay our response to see if others will do it, so that we would not have to do it. If someone were giving us a gift, would we wait to see if anyone else takes it before we do?

The other consequence of the encounter with Jesus is “joy.” As the prophet affirms:

“The Lord, your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives you the victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singing, as on a day of festival” (Zephaniah 3:17). Many saints and fathers of the Church affirmed that joy is a sign of God. The real joy invades the soul of believers, and touches everything they do.  One of the things your soul always has is joy, joy for knowing that God love us, joy for the certainty that He is always with us.

Sometimes because of all of the worries and struggles of our lives, happiness may elude us, but it is in those moments that, more than ever, we need to encounter God. It is in the Lord’s presence that we learn to value all that is before us and rejoice in the important things.

The sign of a true Catholic is joy, not the temporary joy of one day, but a joy that goes beyond days and years, and is found in something that no one can take away: the presence of Jesus in our lives.

We are called, as was Zacchaeus, to respond to the Lord’s presence with a hastened heart and to begin rejoicing in our God’s presence now and for all eternity.

Fr. Sergio