Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalms 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
As our readings for these last weeks of the Church Year begin to take a turn toward “end times” and the prospect of standing before the throne of God, we are urged to call-to-mind, our relationship with the Lord. Who we are is rooted in that relationship and our ultimate destiny is at stake.
Our world tells us that who we are, what we think of ourselves, and what others think of us, is in our hands and is of most importance. We must have a greater and more positive self-esteem. We must strive to make a good name for ourselves and establish ourselves as worthy of attention. In our gospel we meet Zacchaeus. Of all people to choose from, Jesus singles out this man, a man of short stature. Not only was he literally “short” (challenged in height) but he was a tax collector, a sinner in the view of the people, a traitor to his own people for he worked for the Romans in the oppression of the Hebrew people, and he was a cheat. He was known in the community, wealthy among his neighbors, prestigious among the political community … but he was “short” in the dignity and esteem in the eyes of the community.
But he longed to see and hear Jesus. He went out of his way to encounter this teacher whose words were tugging at his heart. And when Jesus saw him and invited him to come to him, something happened in his life. He invited Jesus to his home, into his life, and it was a transforming moment.
Zacchaeus’ stature and esteem reached a new level. But more importantly for Zacchaeus, he realized that this embrace of Jesus brought him salvation and a dignity that he never thought possible for one such as himself.
For us, it is a clear reminder that we, who are sinners and who stand empty and needy before God are embraced and clothed with a dignity beyond our imagining or our hope.
The 11th chapter of Wisdom tells us very beautifully that we are nothing without God. If there is any desire to be godly in our desire, we fall radically short. Before the Lord the universe is like one grain on the scales of life or one drop of dew upon the whole earth. Are we reminded of this to “put us in our place”? To tell us that we are nothing, unworthy of any dignity?
Not if we continue to listen to Wisdom. We read: “But you have mercy on all … for you love all things that are …You spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls.”
Like Zacchaeus we are lifted-up in stature and clothed with a dignity that cannot be questioned when we accept the invitation of Jesus to “come to our house” and share the heavenly banquet. Transformed in that encounter, we can rejoice that “salvation has come to our house” for the Lord comes to seek and save what was lost. We can continue our journey with confident assurance and joy.
By: Father Leonard Stoviak, Retired Priest of the Diocese of Greensburg