I, John, heard the Lord say to me, "To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars: I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God's creation: "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire so that you may be rich; and white robes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen; and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent. Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me. To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne, just as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches."
Lord, who shall be admitted to your tent?
He who walks without fault;
he who acts with justice and speaks the truth from his heart;
he who does not slander with his tongue. (R./)
He who does no wrong to his brother,
who casts no slur on his neighbour,
who holds the godless in disdain,
but honours those who fear the Lord. (R./)
He who takes no interest on a loan
and accepts no bribes against the innocent.
Such a man will stand firm for ever. (R./)
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, "He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner." Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." Then Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost."
Through a series of visions early in the Book of Revelation, the risen Lord Jesus sends messages of conversion to each of seven churches in Asia Minor. The last of them was to the church in Laodicea, an important financial centre, famousfor its medical discoveries, and its its commercial wealth. Tempted by their prosperity to forget God, the Christians there were the ones to whom Christ had the sharpest things to say: "I know all about you; how you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were one or the other, but since you are neither, but only lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth". What an apt message for the world today, where we see such widespread religious indifference, verging on atheism.
Like the Laodiceans, many people are neither hot nor cold; nor do they think even to wonder about religion (GS 19). Without some special grace of God or some impulse from the good example of others they remain stuck in the rut of indifference. Their spiritual state is static weariness, whereas to grow in a relationship with God demands change, and, as Cardinal Newman wrote in his famous Apologia, "to grow is to change and to be perfect is to changed many times."
To help us to conversion God makes use of human agents. A fine example of this is in the call of the first disciples, in Saint John's Gospel. John the Baptist was with two of his followers when Jesus passed nearby. John said to his two friends, "Look, there is the Lamb of God," and this simple remark led the two to join up with Jesus. One was Andrew, who was instrumental in persuading his brother Peter to join as well. Next day Philip joined the group, on the invitation, "Follow me." Then Philip found his friend Nathanael, and shared his new-found faith. When Nathanael brusquely dismissed this claim, Philip asked him to, "Come and see." One brief conversation helped Nathanael to change his mind and led to his life-long commitment.
Who knows what each of us could do, to help some of our friends away from indifference and into the life-changing company of Jesus Christ?
To be found by Jesus, Zacchaeus was prepared to lose much of himself. First of all, he let go of his social dignity by climbing up the sycamore tree to get a view. At the end of the story, he gave away much of his wealth to paying back with interest those he had defrauded. Maybe Jesus too had to set aside his reputation as a man of God, by going to dine at the home of a well-known "sinner", the tax-collecter Zacchaeus.
On reaching the shade of the sycamore tree, Jesus looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, hurry down!" Because he recognised a spirit of repentance in the tax-man's heart he put his dignity at risk by offering to visit the man for supper. Then he gave the reason: his purpose was "to search out and save what was lost." The tax-collector's response was glad acceptance.
Our own moments of conversion are much less dramatic. It is easy to be lukewarm, like the church of Laodicea. If we are lukewarm, we are not really bad; we help the poor, a little; we are sympathetic, sometimes; we are forgiving, towards a select few. We practice our Christianity half-heartedly. Maybe the Lord would prefer that we were sinners, capable of conversion, rather than "lukewarm, neither hot nor cold," standing up for nothing and just taking the easy option all the time.