Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We see in the Gospel the story of the conversion of Zacchaeus. He was a lost sinner and he was really taken away from being his true self. Money was everything for him. But he had no peace. He desired to achieve peace but it was far away from him. He wanted to see Jesus whom he thought would bring him peace. As I was reading the story of Zacchaeus, I came across this story which I found in the Journey of Faith book used for the 7th grade Confirmation students. This story teaches us how sin creeps in and kills us.
Once upon a time there was a Native American Indian boy. It was the custom of his tribe to send the boys out into the wilderness around the time they were becoming young men. For thirty days they had to take care of themselves. They had to find their own food, defend themselves against wild animals, and find somewhere safe for shelter each night to sleep. After the thirty days had past, all the men in the tribe would come searching for the boy and when they found him, he would be initiated into the tribe as an adult.
For several days everything was fine. They boy found plenty of food to eat and a place to sleep each night. But around the fifth and the sixth day food became scarce. On the seventh day they boy couldn’t find any food at all, and this went on for almost a week. Finally, the boy woke up starving the morning of the thirteenth day. He hadn’t eaten in almost a week. That morning as he wandered in the wilderness, the boy noticed a mountain in the distance. The thought to himself, “Perhaps I will find food up on the mountain.” The boy walked in the direction of the mountain, and around the middle of the day he reached it and began to climb it. He soon discovered a path and followed it toward to the top, but still no food. Late in the afternoon, just as the boy was stumbling upon the pinnacle of the mountain, starving and exhausted, a rattlesnake slithered across the pack in front of him. The boy froze. The boy looked at the snake and the snake looked at the boy. Then the boy slowly began to back away from it. But just as he did, the snake said to the boy, “Boy, I am lost up here in the mountains and I cannot find my way down. But I know you know the way down. Please, will you lead me down the mountain?” The boy replied, “No. I know what you are. You’re a rattlesnake. At any moment you could strike out and hurt me, even kill me.” The rattlesnake said to the boy, “You look hungry, boy.” “Ahh,” the boy groaned. “I’m starving. I haven’t eaten in almost a week.” The snake said to the boy, “I know where we can find food. If you lead me down the mountain I will lead you to food.” The boy said, “No. You’re a rattlesnake and you could hurt me.” The snake said to the boy, “If you lead me down the mountain, I promise I will lead you to food and I promise I will not hurt you.” The boy thought for a moment, and then he said to the snake, “Do you promise?” “I do,” replied the snake. So the boy led the snake down the mountain, and when they got to the bottom the snake led the boy to food. The snake laid before the boy every type of food he could imagine, a banquet fit for a king. The boy ate and he drank, and he felt like a king. Then the snake began to dance, and when the snake danced it was beautiful. So, the boy began to dance also. The boy danced and the snake danced, and they ate some more and drank some more, and then all of a sudden the snake struck out and bit the boy. The boy fell to the ground screaming and crying. The snake slithered over to the boy. The boy looked at the snake, and the snake looked at the boy, and the boy screamed, “You promised! You promised you wouldn’t hurt me!” The snake looked deep into the boy’s eyes, smiled and laughed, and said, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”
What is the rattlesnake in your life today? We saw Zacchaeus who was driven away from God because of his greed for money. Greed was the rattlesnake in Zacchaeus’ life. What is the rattlesnake which will sooner or later strike you and kill you? It can be anything. It can be our anger, revenge, greed, hurt feelings, unforgiveness or pride. It can also be our prejudice, laziness or procrastination. Sin will sneak into your life. It will make you feel comfortable in the beginning, but later it will kill you. Deep in our conscience God speaks to us to help us avoid these rattlesnakes. Just like Zacchaeus in the Gospel had a desire to meet Jesus in the middle of his chaotic life, he too places the desire in us. Let us try to meet Jesus and listen to the small still voice which calls to us. As we continue with this Holy Eucharist ask for the grace to identify the rattlesnakes in your life. Ask Jesus to save us from these rattlesnakes.
God Bless You,