His Eminence Archbishop Daniel, continuing his archpastoral visit to the Ukrainian Orthodox Eparchy of Australia and New Zealand and after having visited Dormition of the Birth-Giver of God Ukrainian Orthodox parish in Balaklava, on February 2, 2020 (Zacchaeus Sunday) received a warm welcome and celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Protection of the Birth-Giver of God in Essendon, Victoria.
Michael Kornitschuk and Nadia Lesyk - representatives of the central organizations of the parish’s community welcomed Vladyka Daniel to Essendon on behalf of the entire Ukrainian Orthodox community of Melbourne.
In his sermon Archbishop Daniel said, among other things:
“What a glorious morning of fellowship in the Holy Spirit for all of us! I count myself very blessed indeed to be with all of you this day. I wish to thank Very Rev. Fr. Michael Solomko, president of the Consistory of the Eparchy for his exemplary hospitality to me, since the moment of my arrival to Australia a few days ago.
I am especially pleased to be in this sacred temple worshipping with you and your temporary pastor, Very Rev. Fr. Vasyl Kasyan, on this Sunday of Zacchaeus, a Sunday that speaks of enthusiasm, hospitality, honesty, and generosity. For it is this chief tax collector, a rich tax collector, and more than likely a very greedy tax collector – Zacchaeus, through whose eyes we see our Lord Jesus Christ today, and through whose story we may see our own, in the marvelous Gospel reading of the Evangelist Luke.
No doubt Zaccaheus was a much-resented man within his own community. At that time, the Jewish tax collectors for the Roman Empire made their living by exacting more – sometimes much more – than was due to Caesar. They were a feared and hated class. But here we see this little Zacchaeus – too short of stature to see Jesus as He passed through Jericho. The crowds blocked Zacchaeus’s view, but he was too enthusiastic to be denied. His ability to climb up that sycamore tree is the beginning of his transformation – invisible to all around him, but plain as day to God Who sees in secret.
Zacchaeus climbs, because he has desire. He climbs, because he feels the presence of Holiness draw near. He climbs, because he will not be daunted by any obstacle. I look around this church and I see the same enthusiasm in your eyes.
For the past several months, both you and the entire Australia suffered from the terrible fires, and yet here you are enthusiastic and ready to serve the Lord. Your faith sustains you and gives the strength to live out your Faith.
You know that He is Lord and God, the Son of God sent to this world and Risen from the dead to bring healing, redemption, and eternal life to all people.
The story of Zacchaeus is a tale of unexpected twists and reversals. A chief tax collector humbles himself by running and climbing a tree, but Jesus’ ministry to the outcast and despised reaches the rich as well as the poor, tax collectors as well as harlots. Jesus has sought out and saved the one who was lost. In response to Jesus’ bestowal of favor, unexpected and unmerited, the rich tax collector joyfully pledged to bear “fruits worthy of repentance.” Zacchaeus thought he was seeking Jesus, but in reality, Jesus was seeking Zacchaeus. Thus, salvation can come even to the house of tax collectors. Zacchaeus just wanted to see Jesus, but by the end of the story he could say to God, “My eyes have seen your salvation.”
Jesus Christ is constantly passing through our lives. How are we responding to his invitation to come down out of our own tree of self-made security, addictions, attitudes, and let him be Lord of our lives? Are we ready to really repent, change our lives, and live his way? How do we treat others who are trying to change their lives?
The Eucharist is another instance of “Jesus passing through our midst.” What is our response? Can we be like Zacchaeus and celebrate this event with joyful repentance, or just grumble and attend with hard, judgmental and unchanging hearts?
So, let us truly believe in God’s merciful love, repent, change our ways, and salvation, the kingdom of heaven, will be ours.”
Following the conclusion of the Divine Liturgy, festive environment moved from the Church temple into the Hall, where parishioners with guests enjoyed a delicious luncheon. People enjoyed the fellowship, and no one seemed to rush home as the cool summer Sunday was coming to an end.
Photos by Victor Musyt