HOMILY OF 31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
MARIST INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY COLLEGE
READINGS: WIS. 11:22-12:2; 2THESS. 1:11-2:2 & LUKE 19:1-10
- Link to that of Zacchaeus – a portrait of a professional sinner
- God’s attitude/perspective of sinners
- We too need salvation by encountering Jesus
- Why are we stagnated? Obstacles: You and I (I – short stature of Zacchaeus. You – the crowd
- Interventions – determination and restitution.
The first good work of every Christian is to know and believe in Jesus Christ. Hence, St. John says: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). However, in doing so we must strive to know Jesus properly especially in considering His ultimate mission, or the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ life. This is what the Gospel of today says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. It is the very nature of Jesus to save. Hence His name Jesus – means Saviour. And in Luke 4:18, Jesus clearly tells us from Isaiah 61:1 His mission statement: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,” (Luke 4:18).
Because the Son of God is a saviour, then the first reading shows that the Father of the Son of God and our God is a lover of souls. It says, “You love all things that are and hate nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? … You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!”
Now, God loves us not because we are good, but through His love we can be good. More so, He first loved us and has always done so. Thus, Our God is ever ready to do anything to get a soul that is lost back to him. “For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him may not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
In the figure of Zacchaeus from the Gospel reading, we have a portrait/picture of a lost soul. Zacchaeus is presented as a “professional sinner.” Zacchaeus is a “chief tax collector” and worst still is very rich through fraud/extortion of money from his fellow Jews. His fellow Jews hates him for two reasons. First, Zacchaeus is hated by the Jews because he worked for the pagan Roman colonial government that colonized the Jews. Secondly, Zacchaeus and his subordinate tax collectors extorted money from the Jews to remit to the pagan Roman colonial government and by extension enriched themselves through excessive commission.
But Zacchaeus’ faith brings salvation to his house. By all standards Zacchaeus was well to do but he lacked the ultimate value of life or the meaning of life: SALVATION. Because he lacks salvation which is a free gift of God through Jesus Christ he failed to be happy. In truth he got lost! He knows he is dishonest and a cheat. Hence he looks for the source and sustainer of salvation and happiness by climbing a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. Beautifully, Jesus sees Zacchaeus’ efforts and sincerity and he says, “Zacchaeus make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).
The Jews of Jesus’ time failed to recognize the core mission of Jesus – to save sinners. So, when they heard and saw that Jesus invited Himself as a guest to Zacchaeus’ house, they were surprised if not completely disappointed.
From the description of the story of Zacchaeus, it is clear that there are two sets of people looking and judging Zacchaeus. The crowd and Jesus. What did the crowd look at? They looked at the public image or outward appearance of Zacchaeus but Jesus Christ the lover of souls looked at the sincere heart of Zacchaeus.
There are three messages involve in the Zacchaeus’ story. The first is for us to understand God’s attitude toward sinners. The story certainly indicates to us that God chose to associate with (and to save) Zacchaeus whom He knew to be an unworthy sinner. The crowds were angry, because they did not see themselves as sinners, but as the righteous. We need to see from this story that Jesus came to save those who are unworthy, those who are sinners. This is the message of the Gospel. This is the mission of Jesus Christ – to save the lost. Even right from the O.T. the Lord is clear about His attitude toward sinners/wicked: “”Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked,” declares the Lord GOD, “rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23).
Don’t be surprised or discouraged. The greatest surprise in the universe is waiting for you. The First Reading reveals it, as it makes this speech to God:
“You love all things that are and hate nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? … You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!”
On judgment day, there is going to be a lot of surprises. People you have condemned would be seen fellowshipping with God in the highest heavens. Be careful. Give people a chance to experience salvation. Don’t be a judge and condemn! Give sinners a second chance and believe that that worst person can change and become a saint. Also, a lot of people are search for God, conversion and for salvation but they cannot make it because many of us are in the crowd and have become a stumbling block to them. This is the way most of us treat unbelievers and sinners in our midst. We need to imitate Jesus and encounter unbelievers and sinners. Jesus invited Himself to the Home of Zacchaeus.
It would be a wonderful exercise to make a top-ten list of wicked/bad people: criminals, terrorists, financiers, politicians from the other side, a few industrialists…. In your imagination sit down with them, one by one, in the company of Jesus, and see how the conversation goes….
The second is about us – we need conversion. What effort do we make to search for God and gain conversion of heart? Zacchaeus is our model of salvation. If you sincerely repent of your sins you will hear Jesus call you by your name as He did to Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus is a patron of reparation and penance.
“Because sin is such a great evil, its damage is very extensive. Zacchaeus realized this. So he began to make partial reparation by giving half of his possessions to the poor. Because Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and tax collecting was a lucrative business, half of Zacchaeus’ assets could probably be at least the equivalent of several hundred thousand dollars. This shows the extent of the need to make reparation and do penance.
The indulgences given by the Church also imply that the victims of sin are severely damaged. An indulgence is the Church’s application of Christ’s merits and the Church’s share in those merits to the repair due to sin. Unless the repair job was extensive, why would we need help of such magnitude?
Purgatory is partly for reparation of the damaging effects of sin. This again implies that justice and love require reparation for our sins and that this repairing is extensive.”
Zacchaeus is a patron of reparation and penance. Let us follow his example and return to being a people of penance.