Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 30, 2016
Reading 1 WIS 11:22-12:2
Responsorial Psalm PS 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
- (cf. 1) I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
Reading 22 THES 1:11-2:2
Alleluia JN 3:16
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 19:1-10
Homily—October 29 & 30, 2016
Two taxidermists stopped before a window in which an owl was on display. They immediately began to criticize the way it was mounted. Its eyes were not natural; its wings were not in proportion to its head; its feathers were not neatly arranged; and its feet could be improved. When they had finished with the criticism, they were just about to move on- then the owl turned his head and winked at them.
The crowd at Jericho was quick to judge Zacchaeus as a sinner when Jesus invited himself to the house of Zacchaeus. “All the people were muttering complaints about this, that Christ would call him and be so familiar with him as to offer, on his own initiative, to come to his house…
But that was a rash, presumptuous and blind judgement they made on him, for no one else could see his inner disposition and the possibility of a sudden change in it.”—St Thomas More—I wonder if there was some jealousy too that Jesus had not gone to one of their homes to be the guest of honor.
Luke uses his readers’ expectations against them and consequently teaches some valuable lessons about God’s mercy and how we are to act as disciples. Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector, was presumed the worst of the lot. But, when standing with Jesus, everyone discovers the error of their presumption. Zacchaeus was not the thief people presumed he was. The crowd had condemned the man based on what they thought they knew, not on the truth. In doing so, they condemned themselves and showed themselves as being every bit as sinful as they had presumed Zacchaeus to be.
We need to look at our own judgements of others. How do we judge those charged with horrible crimes before a trial? How do we judge police shootings before the facts are gathered? How do we judge a woman dressed in a burqa? How do we judge those attending the new mosque on the West end? How will we judge someone voting differently than we do? How will our presumptions and judgements appear before God?
The first reading tells us that anything God makes is good, and that God does not want to lose anything that is His. The story of Zacchaeus is more than a story of one man’s salvation. It warns us against presumption, and it reveals the benefit of expressing mercy.
The Catholic Catechism states “there are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capabilities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy (to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).”
All of us are invited to salvation. Those are saved who seek Jesus and are open to being sought by him. The first step of Zacchaeus was to climb the sycamore tree to see Jesus. When Jesus asked to stay at his house Zacchaeus offered hospitality. Seeing Jesus isn’t enough. Those are saved who change their lives when they encounter Jesus. Encounter must lead to a faith relationship that makes a difference in our lives. It is not good enough to say that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. Since Jesus continues his saving mission through us his followers, we must be equally responsive to others. We must put our own affairs in order and care for those in any need. We must also live in such a way that when others encounter us, they encounter Jesus.
Zacchaeus makes a bold statement when he is judged to be a sinner. He says, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted any money from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” Zacchaeus reminds us that we must also always be willing to change and grow and be vigilant about our relationships with others and with God. Creativity in seeking Jesus might mean that we are innovative in our personal prayer life especially in taking time to read and study scripture and listen to the Lord.