Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time Wisdom 11:22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10 “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” (Luke 19:5)
Jack Higgins, a prolific novelist and perhaps one of the most successful British writers in this genre, is a multi -millionaire whose thrillers are on sale at every airport bookstore in the world. Rising from poverty, Higgins once was asked if he was happy with his wealth. Surprisingly, he answered that he was not and, in fact, he wished someone had told him early in his life that “when you get to the top, there is nothing there”.
One wonders if Zacchaeus felt the same way about his wealth. Zacchaeus was a chief toll collector in the city of Jericho through which many pilgrims passed on their way to the festivals in Jerusalem. He was assumed to be a rich man as most people in Palestine were convinced that these tax collectors paid only a portion of the taxes to Rome and kept the rest for themselves. Despite his riches, Zacchaeus certainly did not have many friends in Jericho. The crowd assumes that Zacchaeus is a dishonest man. However, Zacchaeus is very anxious to meet Jesus. He had heard about this prophet and he wanted to hear what Jesus had to say. He runs ahead of the crowd and climbs a sycamore tree, a very demeaning act for someone of his social stature, seeking a place and moment to make contact with Jesus. When Jesus invites himself into Zacchaeus’ life, a transformative moment takes place that changes Zacchaeus’ life. Having met Jesus, Zacchaeus proclaims a total detachment from his earthly possessions and promises to make restitution to anyone whom he has cheated. This gospel story challenges us to come down from our tree and invite Jesus into our heart. When Jesus invites himself into my life, will I recognize him? Where am I expecting to find Him – in what person, what place, what experience? In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, the author portrays God as the master of the universe overlooking his creation from a great distance. This God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is one of supreme power and love who can chastise the immoral with patience and bridge the chasm between the righteous and the sinner. Similarly, in the story of Zacchaeus we see that the slightest turning toward Jesus is rewarded by Jesus loving mercy and compassion that know no bounds.
In the second reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, Paul first thanks God for the faith of the Thessalonians and assures the Thessalonians that the apostles are praying for them so that they may be worthy of the call that God has given them. Many of the Thessalonians thought the second coming of God was at hand and stopped working and spent their time looking at the skies for signs of God’s coming. Paul attempts to rekindle in the hearts of the Thessalonians hope and expectation of God’s coming but asks them not to focus on the future coming but rather to stand firm and hold fast to the traditions they have received.
Sister Mary T. Flood, O.P.