Bare trees stand like skeletons against the sharpness of a cloudless blue sky. A blanket of brilliantly colored leaves cradle their roots, and there is a tenderness in that comfort. Shades of colors, muted and outspoken, shriveled and supple, lie still together in one mosaic. And in the clarity of winter’s nearness rests a resolve. These are not skeleton trees; life is winding through them like sap, cycling through the increments of time in in the same mysterious way we live out the seasons of our lives. So much happens around us and so much lies within us. Life is about negotiating the processes and circumstances and bears the surprise and shock of colors, the rhythm of seasons.

The Gospel tells the story of Zaccheus, small of stature, curious and inventive, who climbed the tree to see Jesus. He lived somewhat outside the norms of the community, different in religious tradition, in class and in life choice as a tax collector. Jesus recognizes and invites him forward. And therein, as a priest emphasized today, is the key matter: the man was noticed, recognized, accepted. His focus was relationship with God and his examples pointed to a key element of faith. We provide that recognition, that moment of acceptance for one another. The moment pivots on the truth of the words of Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body but yours,

No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which He looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours are the feet,
Yours are the eyes, you are His body.
Christ has no body now but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
compassion on this world.
Christ has no body now on earth but yours.

— St. Teresa of Ávila (attributed)

Simplicity lingers in the words. Like the barren trees, the focus is on the body and its parts. Like the blanketed trees, there is a striking sense of gift and of possibility….of being part of something quite a bit greater than self. An endless connection, a capacity for growth, for compassion and goodness, for touching the world with strength and tender humility. Most of all, there is the sense that each of us has the capacity to be both the recognized person, Zaccheus, and to be the presence of God for others. It is about recognition of the soul of a person, of the life pulsating through each moment; it is not about garnering accolades but living in accord, in balance, with the realities of who we are. And so we stand with one another, beholding the earth and its wonders, and we can see and hear and touch one another with compassion and caring. We can surprise one another with kindness, with gentleness, with real recognition. We have the chance to bring to fulfillment every good purpose. Surprise!

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