Head of the UGCC: “Invaders feel that in their country they are considered to be waste, waste that now is being strewn throughout Ukraine.”

January 29, 2023, 22:08 27

“A few words about a short-in-stature person who has lost all dignity, and about the towering height of our being one with the son of God, of God’s respect for man that we perceive in a special way during this time of war in Ukraine. We see how modern despots, small people, want to make a name for themselves by humiliating and destroying other peoples along with achievements of the entirety of human civilization, destroying the lives of millions and sending their own people to die.”

Head of the UGCC: “Invaders feel that in their country they are considered to be waste, waste that now is being strewn throughout Ukraine.”

These words were spoken by the Father and Head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church His Beatitude Sviatoslav during his sermon on Sunday about Zacchaeus.

“As I listen to the testimony of our people who survived occupation,” continued the Primate, “they all say with one voice that the Russian invaders came to take away our dignity. However, we see that the invaders themselves behave in a manner without dignity, as villains. They feel that in their army, in their country, no one respects them, no one needs them, they are considered to be waste, waste that now is being strewn throughout Ukraine.”

Today’s Gospel, which is already beginning to prepare us for Lent, is the good news of God’s great respect for man. We listen to the story of Zacchaeus’ meeting with Christ in the city of Jericho, a meeting that occurs in both an interesting and profound manner. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. What motivated him? What would such a meeting give him?

“We know, according to the Gospel of Luke, that a person, one who feels his own unworthiness, one who has no respect for himself, will attempt to gain self-respect in his own eyes. Possibly, Zacchaeus’ feeling of his lowliness compelled him to climb up [the fig tree]. As was written, Zacchaues considered himself to be short in stature. Since he felt that he was less worthy than everyone else, he also felt that he could become someone important by taking away the dignity of others, could become great only by humiliating others. The wealth that he sought was likely compensation for his sense of his own unworthiness, or as we would say today, his sense of low self-esteem. He wanted to have a career, he wanted to be superior to the customs officials, all in order to silence the inner voice of his own contempt. So, he climbed atop a fig tree, thereby attaining attention from among the people!”

Zacchaeus, continued the Head of the Church, climbed up the fig tree at least to see with one eye Christ passing by. Zacchaeus did not expect that He would come right up to him. Because passing and entering are two completely different realities. “And the Lord comes to him,” which means that He finds in Zacchaeus the dignity that Zacchaeus had been seeking for his entire life — the dignity he had lost. And then He enters his home, his personal life story, into his family. Because the word “home” can have two meanings: physical residence or can mean that which is dear and valuable — our sons and daughters. Therefore, the words ‘Today I must be in your home’ mean ‘Zacchaeus, you are much more valuable in the eyes of God than you have ever imagined’.”

Dignity found, or dignity newly given to man by God, is something that completely changes the life of Zacchaues. He is happy, he accepts Christ and behaves as if he no longer needs all that he has accumulated.

“In our lives, we often feel our lost dignity. Moreover, when we sin, we think that God forgets us, turns away from us. Sometimes the very feeling of one’s own unworthiness makes a person aggressive, focused exclusively on a career, makes you feel feeling that you alone have to attain your own dignity — respond to self-imposed demands such as ‘show what you are capable of, of what you can do’.”

Such a lack of dignity is a great scourge of people, in particular among people in the post-Soviet space, when for centuries this or that despotic leader took dignity away from people, with false promises that “he who was nobody will become everything”, but in reality the individual is humiliated, even when walking on the heads of his neighbors to make a career, renounced God and renounced his own people. Common wisdom about the fate of such a person is: “Regardless of who he became, he remained a no one” said the Head of the Church.

“We see how many contemporary wealthy individual do nothing but use their wealth to try to silence the cry of their own conscience, to appease feelings of unworthiness. As Pope Benedict has said: ‘He who will find his dignity will make a revolution’.”

The evangelist Luke tells us that when we sin, the Lord God does not stop looking at us, on the contrary begins to look for us! When He contemplates us, He sees the truth about us, He sees His child. And only later does He see what this child lost or lost because of his own weakness! God looks at the ridiculous height to which each of us is grappling to climb and says: “Climb down. Today I will be in your home, in your heart, to show you all your greatness and dignity in the eyes of God. I came to Earth for you. I came to save what was lost in you, to find that which was lost by you.”

Information Department of the UGCC

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