Reputations are things of major importance. They make or break a person. They reflect who we are by reflecting on what we do. They give people a notion of what to expect in a person.
When a person's reputation is rooted in fact, then, good or bad, we have a clear vision of the person. However, as we all know, reputations can be harmed and even destroyed by accusation and falsehood. I knew a man in the seminary years ago that served as a good priest in a New England diocese, was accused of sexual abuse and found innocent, restored to the parish, but found his reputation destroyed and life too much to bear. I pray for his soul, and I ask you to offer a prayer for him and for victims of all kinds of abuse. We need to look into the heart of the person and see what Christ himself loves of that person, rather than judging by the externals or the accusations that build reputations.
This morning at Mass we heard the Lord speak to the Church in Sardis in the Book of Revelation. In the letter written to the Church he says "I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent." The Church at Sardis looked pretty good. Their PR was great. They rested on their reputation, but were lacking, empty and hollow inside where it mattered. The Lord tells them to remember their relationship with him, their commitment to him, what the loss of that commitment would mean, and repent.
To the Church in Laodicea he lays an even heavier accusation. Again he says he knows their works and that they are neither hot nor cold about the relationship. Because they are lukewarm, he will spit them out of his mouth. He says "For you say, 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,' and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked." Revelation is so powerful (read the entire passage - Revelation 3:1-6; 14-22).
And in the Gospel of Luke we encounter the curious Zacchaeus whose reputation, well deserved, is nonetheless invited to welcome Jesus into his home. His reaction, his response, his repentance opens to him and for him a place in the Kingdom and more importantly a place within the heart of Christ.
We should be concerned about our reputation. But since that may not always be within our control, we must more importantly be concerned with our heart, so that we may hear the words "Today salvation has come to this house".