November 3, 2019 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Andy Upah

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 WIS 11:22-12:2

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14

R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God. 
Reading 22 THES 1:11-2:2

Alleluia JN 3:16

Gospel LK 19:1-10

Homily for Nativity on the Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time Year  Encountering Jesus 

When was the first time you encountered Christ? When was the first time you encountered Jesus in your life? 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem and when he arrived at Jericho, he had no real intention of stopping, he was going to Jerusalem to be crucified. 

Jericho was a big city, there were many people there, but Jesus noticed Zacchaeus in a sycamore tree, and He decided He needed to stop and spend some time with this sinner, this tax collector whom everyone despised.  As a Jew working for the foreign occupying Roman government, he was not only collecting taxes but he was extorting his own people for personal gain. 

It had to be a shock to everyone in the crowd, Jesus apostles and disciples and the people in the town in general, but most of all it had to be a shock to Zacchaeus himself. 

“Why does he want to stay at my house?  Why did he choose me out of all these other people?” 

Zacchaeus knew that he was a sinful man, the crowd didn’t have to point that out to him, even though they did, he knew he was guilty of many things. 

Jesus asked Zacchaeus to come down quickly, which he did, but the interior response of Zacchaeus is even quicker, almost immediately, he is filled with joy and he calls Jesus “Lord” and tells Him how he will make up for his sins, just from this brief encounter. 

When was the first time you encountered Christ? 

Next weekend Wahlert is hosting TEC, which stands for Teens Encounter Christ, and I am the chaplain for that retreat next weeked.  TEC used to be just for high school seniors, but it is open to juniors now, and there are still more spots available if you or anyone you know is interested.   

I remember when I went on TEC myself, it was twenty years ago this month in fact, and I did not encounter Christ there.  I encountered a head cold, and my runny nose made me miserable.  Not a joyful experience. 

But maybe it wasn’t my exterior posture that made me feel like I didn’t encounter Christ, maybe I wasn’t interiorly disposed, I was too proud, I didn’t recognize my own sinfulness, I didn’t really know I needed Jesus, I didn’t have that desire to see Him like Zacchaeus did.   

TEC was not a life changing moment for me, although it may have moved me a little bit despite my cold.  Our first reading from the book of Wisdom said, “Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!” 

Little by little, we move ourselves to a place of encounter with Christ.  Jesus loves us and is always looking to encounter us, but we aren’t always ready to encounter Him. 

We continue in our sin, but thankfully, the Lord continues to love us.  Our reading from Wisdom says, “you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people's sins that they may repent. For you love all things that are...”  

And it goes on to say, “you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” 

Jesus Christ loves us and wants us to love Him, to have that encounter.  My big encounter happened seven years after my TEC, but there was no doubt Christ was there the whole time, trying to encounter me, I just wasn’t ready to encounter Him. 

Do we trust in the love and mercy of the Lord?  Do we recognize him as he draws close to us?  Jesus wants to heal us from our sins, he wants to fill us with joy as we receive him into our lives, into our homes, into our every moment if we will allow it. 

Here at Mass we encounter Jesus tangibly in communion, in the Eucharist. His true presence draws near to us, we are able to receive His body and blood in under our roof, into the home of our body where His spirit already dwells. 

My big encounter with Christ was this realization, that the Lord of the whole universe wanted to heal me from my sins with His immortal medicine, giving His very body and blood to become one with my own.   

Just because we have access to Christ more frequently than Zacchaeus did on the rare occasions that he traveled through Jericho, I pray that the frequency of attending Mass and receiving Jesus in the Eucharist doesn’t lessen the effects or the value of His visits. 

Whether we feel like we have never encountered Jesus or we feel like we have encountered him a thousand times, know that he is still looking for more encounters with each and every one of us, tangibly here at Mass and in all of the sacraments, but also in the scripture, in prayer, and in one another. 

Jesus knows we need to encounter Him, so we should look for those opportunities and come to value the frequency of the close relationship we can enjoy.  May God bless us as we encounter Christ, today and every day.