Be Mindful Of Those Who Feel Isolated In Your Parish

by Gospels

Gospel of Luke 19:1-10

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 all 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.”

Luke 19:1-10

Reflection: Reach Out To Those Who Are Isolated In Your Parish Community

In my work as a counselor, I often see people who are very isolated. People frequently feel like outsiders and some even feel ostracized from their parish communities.  In recent weeks, we discussed the importance of community for our own mental health and spiritual life, but today I would like to focus on the importance of bringing community to people who may be isolated. 

We have a perfect example of this in today’s Gospel.  Zacchaeus was a man who was disliked and ostracized by the people in his community. When people do wrong, our first reaction is often to reject them and send them away from us. This happens in our personal relationships but also at a higher level like the legal system. When someone does something wrong, they are frequently punished and penalized. This is often our natural way of handling a person’s wrongdoing. 

However, Jesus shows us in today’s Gospel that punishment and isolation are not always the answer.  Jesus reaches out to Zacchaeus with love, kindness, and an invitation to spend time together. Zacchaeus immediately repents of his ways and has a conversion of heart. 

I have learned through my work that what frequently helps people with mental health problems is care, love, and support. I want to acknowledge that our efforts to help others in this way often does not end in the rapid conversion that Zacchaeus had. It requires patience and good boundaries to protect ourselves in the process and it sometimes ends in grief and disappointment. However, God calls us to love others and encourage conversion through invitation and community instead of the isolation and rejection that often comes naturally. This week, consider and pray about ways that you can form a greater sense of community for people who may be isolated so that you can help the Zacchaeus in your midst.

Image: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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