Sunday, 30 October 2016

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Wisdom 11:22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

It’s not always easy to respond to the readings at Mass after hearing them read only once. We may be preoccupied with something going on at home, we may have hearing difficulties, the microphone system in the church may not be working, or there just might be a screaming child right under our nose. However, despite all the difficulties, it is vitally important that we get to hear the readings at each Mass.

Some parishes print them on the parish bulletin so we can follow along with the readers while others show them on the overhead. The best guarantee, of course, that the readings don’t just pass us by is to have read them at home before Mass. A slowly growing number of people are doing this. All you need at home is a Sunday Missal.

When we read Scripture we usually find that a word or phrase or image will capture our attention. For me this week it was a ‘moment’, the moment when Jesus reached the spot under the tree and looked up. I found myself happy to just sit and ponder the beautiful face of the Lord.

And don’t ask me exactly why it was that little moment which fascinated me. Was it the loving gaze in the eyes of the Lord looking up at Zacchaeus - or maybe his gentle smile? Or perhaps just wonderment at the goodness of the Divine Shepherd who comes to seek out the poor lost sheep even in the branches of a sycamore tree!

The Scriptures will speak personally to us; to each one of us in a different way. They will speak words of love, of forgiveness, of correction or perhaps of warning. The word of God knows us and understands us and speaks to us with gentleness and power, wounding and healing.

I can only imagine how this Gospel might have spoken to you.

Perhaps you were struck by the word ‘senior’. Zacchaeus was a senior tax collector, important, a boss, a CEO. Maybe you are one too, with many people looking up to you. You might wonder if you would have the humility to put your status at risk, as Zacchaeus did for the sake of the Lord.

Perhaps it was the word ‘wealthy’ which impressed itself on you. How wealthy are you? Perhaps you are very wealthy like Zacchaeus who gave so much of it back to the poor. Maybe you are wondering about your relationship to your wealth, wondering whether you own it or it owns you?

What about that thought-provoking little word ‘short’. Zacchaeus was short, too short to see over the crowd. The crowd is always ‘taller’ in some way than we are, isn’t it? Each one of us, and I do mean each and every one of us, is ‘short’ in some way – looks, talent, intelligence, health, and so on. Maybe we are sad or angry about this, depressed, or even jealous. How do we handle our ‘flaw’, our ‘deficiency’? Zacchaeus accepted it and didn’t let it hold him back – he climbed a tree.

Maybe it was the word ‘tax collector’ which drew your attention. Tax collectors were despised in Israel because they worked for the Romans and added their own percentage to what they collected. The Romans didn’t mind, so long as they got the required amount. Perhaps you thought about your own job or profession. Do you make, have you made, your money in an honourable way? ‘Should I be doing this work? Do I do it honestly?’ Possibly there are some kinds of work a Catholic shouldn’t do.

Maybe you thought to yourself ‘Well, I am senior, wealthy, and tall, and have an honourable job but I am still not satisfied. If something came by which had the potential to fill this emptiness in my heart I would climb a tree too.’ And maybe you thought of senior and wealthy Zacchaeus who climbed a tree because he was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was.

You may not be up a tree but you might be ‘up a creek without a paddle’. You might be in a seriously difficult time of your life and it may even be your own fault. As you saw Jesus stop under Zacchaeus’ tree you might have offered an anguished prayer and cried, ‘Jesus, I am in trouble, come and find me too! I am lost come and help me!’

The Gospel speaks to each one of us the word we need to hear. Perhaps when you read; They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said – you suddenly recognised that you too are a habitual complainer; that you too have a nasty habit of judging others, especially those you believe to be sinners. Then you might find yourself praying ‘Lord, thank you for showing me myself. Thank you for holding up the mirror of your holy word so I can see myself more clearly. Help me, Lord, to stop being a judge over others; help me not to complain about others.’

Zacchaeus’ desire was fulfilled – he got to see what kind of man Jesus was – and, as a bonus, got to see what kind of man he himself was, but he had to make an effort, he had to climb a tree.

What is our next step? What tree can we climb so that we can draw closer to the Lord? What is God asking of me? What must I do, or stop doing, to find salvation?

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