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Thirty-first Sunday – Year C – Ordinary Time
Readings: Wis 11:22-12:2; 2 Thes 1:11-2:2; Lk 19:1-10.
1/ Reading I: RSV Wisdom 11:22 Because the whole world before thee is like a speck that tips the scales, and like a drop of morning dew that falls upon the ground. 23 But thou art merciful to all, for thou can do all things, and thou do overlook men’s sins that they may repent. 24 For thou love all things that exist, and have loathing for none of the things which thou have made, for thou would not have made anything if thou had hated it. 25 How would anything have endured if thou had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by thee have been preserved? 26 Thou spare all things, for they are yours, O Lord who loves the living. 12:1 For thy immortal spirit is in all things. 2 Therefore thou do correct little by little those who trespass, and do remind and warn them of the things wherein they sin, that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in thee, O Lord.
2/ Reading II: RSV 2 Thessalonians 1:11 To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, 12 so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2:1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
3/ Gospel: RSV Luke 19:1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. 3 And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
I. THEME: God’s loving forgiveness
Many of us don’t understand why the Church doesn’t permit the followings: birth controls; abortion even knowing the child carries a disease; euthanasia though they greatly suffer; death penalty no matter how many people he killed. The simple reason behind these is the Church recognizes the right to life belongs to God, not to human beings. God creates all things; He loves and protects all creatures. People are only His creation; no one can destroy what God created.
Today readings want to highlight God’s love for all creatures, especially His loving forgiveness for humankind. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Wisdom emphasizes the principle: since God creates all things, He loves and protects all things. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost; but to repent and to live. In the second reading, St. Paul taught that even people should be destroyed because they misused their freedom; but God gave them Christ to redeem their sins. Therefore, they shouldn’t worry about the Last Day because it is the day that people shall be glorified with Christ. In the Gospel, even in the midst of a big crowd, Jesus still recognized a short and sinful tax-collector, Zacchaeus, who was standing on a sycamore tree. He wanted to visit his house and to bring salvation for him.
1/ Reading I: God loves all things He created.
1.1/ God created all things: The author of the Book of Wisdom wanted to highlight the following important truths which people need to know:
(1) God’s power: The universe, though is giant to people, but to God, it is only “a speck that tips the scales, and like a drop of morning dew that falls upon the ground.” His power also surpasses what people can see because there are countless things in heaven and in the abyss which people can’t see.
(2) God’s love for all creatures: “Thou love all things that exist, and have loathing for none of the things which thou have made, for thou would not have made anything if thou had hated it.”
(3) God’s providence: God not only creates but He also sustains their existence by protecting them. The author pondered, “How would anything have endured if thou had not willed it? Or how would anything not called forth by thee have been preserved?”
1.2/ God gives sinners opportunities to repent.
The human parents often love and care for the sick child more than the healthy ones. If this is true for human beings; it is more true to God who proclaimed many times through the prophets, “If a wicked man turns away from all his sins which he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die” (Eze 18:21). Jesus said the same thing, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17).
Many people aren’t patient when they see the wicked prosperously live upon the righteous’ suffering so they pray to God to destroy them as soon as possible. They don’t understand why God let the wicked to live in this life. To these people, the author of the Book of Wisdom gives the answer, “You are merciful to all, for you can do all things, and you do overlook men’s sins that they may repent.”
Many people doubt these wicked can repent. They forget that nothing is impossible to God. The author revealed one important thing, that is, “God’s immortal spirit is in all things.” Therefore, to the wicked, “You do correct little by little those who trespass, and do remind and warn them of the things wherein they sin, that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in you, O Lord.”
One more thing we need to know: According to the author, the process returning to God is also initiated by Him, not from human beings. If God weren’t, it is impossible for people to repent.
2/ Reading II: “The name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2.1/ Live accordingly to God’s call.
God calls us to be His children and gives all necessary grace so that we can live a life worthy to this call. There are many temptations in the world that prevent us to live in opposition to this call; but we must use God’s grace to overcome that. Some people complain that they are prone to sins and failure because they are so weak. To these people, St. Paul confirms that the grace of Christ’s redemption is enough to help us overcoming all our weakness in life. The important thing is for them to pray and to make an effort to do good deeds, as Paul wrote, “We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
2.2/ Do not be afraid about Christ’s second coming day.
In Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, he thought Christ’s second coming is near so he invited them to immediately prepare for that day. In his Second Letter to the Thessalonians, he corrected his viewpoint about Christ’s second coming, as he wrote, “Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.”
In Paul’s time as also in the year of 2000, many people wrongly prepared for this event by stop working. They withdrew their money from the banks and spend all their savings because they are afraid that they shall have no opportunity to spend them if this day comes. They forgot what the Lord said to his disciples that this day shall certainly come but no one knows about the time. It shall come at the time when people least expect it.
In this Letter, Paul said we should not be “quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us.” If people are ready, this day should be the joyful day because they shall be glorified with Christ.
3/ Gospel: The son of man comes to save what has been lost.
3.1/ The encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus
Zacchaeus was described by St. Luke, not as a tax-collector as Matthew, but as the chief of tax-collectors in Jericho, a very prosperous region of Judah, near Jerusalem. His name shows he is a Jew who works as a tax-collector. To the Jews, tax-collectors were classified as prostitutes and robbers because they follow the Roman Empire to exploit them. He is, of course, very rich.
Due to curiosity, he wants to see Jesus but it is impossible because there is a great crowd and he is short in stature; “so he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way.” At Jericho now, there still exist a giant sycamore tree, surrounded by a fence, for the pilgrims to visit. People at Jericho identify this tree as the one which Zacchaeus climbed up to see Jesus!
Jesus recognized him in the midst of so many peoples. He took the first step in the process of reconciliation with Zacchaeus by saying, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today!”
3.2/ Three different reactions on the encounter
(1) The crowd: When people saw it, they all murmured, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” To them, tax-collectors and prostitutes are considered as public sinners and prohibited to enter the temple. Whoever converses or makes friend with them is also considered as a sinner, and here is the chief of tax-collectors! They thought a person as Jesus can’t make friend with or enter his house because he shall become a sinner.
(2) Zacchaeus: He never thinks Jesus could recognize him in the midst of so many people. Not only that, he also called out his name and expressed his intention to visit him at his house. Up until now, all the Jews looked down on him, considered him as a scum to be avoided; but Jesus doesn’t treat him as such; he considers him as a friend and wants to come to his house; a thing that no Jews would like to do. Therefore, he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully.
When he heard people’s murmuring and knew that he is a sinner, he stood and said to Jesus, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.” First, he promises to give away half of his possession to the poor. The verb is used at present time. Secondly, the Law only requires him to return what he unjustly took from people and pay a fine amounting to one-fifth of the value of the property unlawfully retained or withheld (Lev 6:1-5); but Zacchaeus generously promises to restore it fourfold.
The joy of received by Jesus makes him a new person. Up until now, he only found ways to hoard up others’ possessions; but now, he generously gives the possession which he stored up. When making the decision to return, he courageously leaves his old lifestyle to begin the new lifestyle according to the standards of the gospel. His decision could evaporate all what he has; but it can’t take away the joy of Jesus’ loving forgiveness and his wish to visit his house.
(3) Jesus: He said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus comes to bring salvation for all peoples, not only for the selected ones. Though Jesus heard people’s murmuring, but he didn’t pay attention to them. His only concern is Zacchaeus and he wants to bring him back to God.
Jesus had his loving forgiveness for Zacchaeus before he promises to do many good things. The reason for this loving forgiveness is all are his children and Abraham’s descendants. When recognized Jesus’ loving kindness, Zacchaeus is urged to respond and he did.
Jesus’ purpose when he comes to the world is to save what has lost. He comes not to save the righteous because they have no need of it; but to save the sinners who are considered as the patients looking for a doctor. The truth is that no one is the righteous; all are sinners and needed of God’s loving forgiveness. Those who self-label them as the righteous; they are deceiving themselves and losing the opportunity to receive God’s forgiveness and salvation.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God creates all things and sustains them with His grace; we should value and protect all God’s creation especially we must protect all people from the conception until they finish their life on earth.
– We are equipped by God to overcome obstacles and to live our vocation as God’s children, so we should overcome sins and obstacles to bring Christ’s salvation to all people.
– Imitating Christ, we must also have a forgiving attitude to the sinners and find ways to lead them back to God, not to hate, to condemn or to chase them away.