Fr Richard's words for the Memorial of St Hilda of Whitby
Welcome Christ & be transformed
"When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: 'Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.' And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully."
The story of Zacchaeus that we hear in today's Gospel emphasises the importance of welcoming Jesus, both into our physical homes and into the home which is our heart. Jesus says to us each and every day, "I must stay at your house today'. The question is, do we always and with joy welcome the Lord? Or do we say "we're too busy", or, "we'd rather have someone else in, thanks"?
Saint Hilda of Whitby, one of our very own we celebrate today, constantly welcomed the Lord with joy. At the age of 33 the holy virgin resolved to consecrate herself to God as a nun. She was chosen as an abbess, first of the monastery at Hartlepool and then the monastery that came to be known as Whitby Abbey.
We know from the story of Zacchaeus that when we welcome Christ into our hearts and stay devoted to Him, then we are transformed. Upon his encounter with Our Lord, Zacchaeus pledged to give half his property to the poor and pay back four times over those he'd cheated. In Hilda's case, she had already been a holy young woman but she increased in virtue all the more by committing herself in virginity to Christ the Bridegroom. Her holiness inspired the conversion of many sinners. She was also a pioneer in providing education at the Abbey for young men and women alike, as early as the 7th century. St Hilda's particular zeal was for Scripture studies, allowing the students to grow in love for God's word.
The life of St Hilda teaches us that, when we make a home for Christ in our hearts, His Holy Spirit burns within us, allowing us to generously pour out our love for God and for His people.