Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time
November 2-3, 2019
Who does Jesus not love? How far is a person willing to go to receive that love? The answers are found in today’s Gospel. Under the Roman Empire a person was chosen by Rome from among the conquered nation to collect the imperial tax from his own people. Any amount charged above the standard tax, as often happened, was allowed to be kept by the tax collector and enforced by the full power of Rome. Zacchaeus was such a tax collector.
Into this situation comes Jesus. Though we are not given the reason, Zacchaeus is determined to see the Lord. Yet due to his short stature and the large crowd, he is forced to run ahead and climb a sycamore tree. His wealth and position of importance was probably reflected in his fine clothes and girth from an opulent lifestyle. Imagine the scene of this disliked man running in his robes and then attempting to climb a tree. The crowd must have ridiculed and jeered him. Humiliated, filthy and exhausted, Zacchaeus literally climbed out on a limb to see Jesus. He was willing to risk everything. To everyone’s shock, Christ not only called his name, but went to stay with Zacchaeus. Even this man, a sinner despised by many, was a recipient of the love of the Lord.
What about us? Like Zacchaeus, we are all sinners and, like him, we are loved by Jesus. However, we must accept that love. Are we willing to go out on a limb to get it? Are we willing to risk our stature, our security and our reputation? Are we willing to risk everything to follow the Lord? If so, Jesus will call us by name, abide in our home and fill us with His love.
However, accepting such an all forgiving, all encompassing love calls for a response. As for Zacchaeus, he pledged to be a different person; he vowed to give half of his possessions to the poor and repay anyone he extorted four times over. We are called to do no less. We are called to be saints.
On becoming saints, C. S. Lewis gave this advice, “Don’t shine so that others can see you. Shine, so that through you, others see God.”
Patrick J. Perkins