Father Alan's Homily

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 3, 2019

From time to time we are shown pictures from the International Space Station and it shows us how small the earth really is. In the Book of Wisdom, we read and hear that the whole of the universe is but a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew, but that it had infinite value because God loathes nothing that He has made. Each and every person also has infinite value because he is the creator of everyone. He loves each and every one and his patience is geared to our salvation. We are sinners and yet we are loved by God. The love of God empties itself into our humanity in Jesus.

Today we heard the words and read the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zachaeus. The event takes place in the town of Jericho and in scripture studies this is the oldest town of continual habitation going back 9,000 years. The walls of Jericho appeared to tower 10 stories high during the Battle of Jericho. Remember how the walls fell before Joshua and the Israelite troops.

On this occasion, Jesus was passing through Jericho. Zacchaeus who was a tax collector, who was hated as much as he was rich since he was the tax collector. Scripture also tells us that he was very short. Who knows why he wanted to see Jesus. Maybe he had heard that Jesus was a healer, a great speaker or a miracle worker. In wanting to see Jesus he had to elbow his way through a disagreeable crowd who hated him and most likely were stopping his progress. When we look back in our own lives, what was stopping us from coming to Jesus? When we think back was it a personal problem, was it an area of sin, was it the struggle to obtain wealth, position or power? Was it the sin of idolatry where we placed our own ego ahead of God? No matter what our circumstances Jesus takes us just where we are at and not how we could be or should be. Like Zachaesus. He is the one who gets us to come down off of the tree when we have gone out on a limb and he invites us to a personal relationship with him.  

When Jesus said to Zacchaeus: come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house; he came down quickly and received him with joy. Then he says to Jesus: Behold, half of my possessions I will give to the poor and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it four times over. At this, Jesus says: today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost.

Ultimately; we do not know what happens to Zacchaeus after his time with Jesus. But in the end the story is not about him but it is about who Jesus is and what He offers to each one of us and to every person on the planet that opens himself to Jesus.  He offers the gift of salvation, freely given when we dare to go put on a limb like Zacchaeus did and open our hearts to make a place for the Lord.