HOMILY FOR THE 31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C.
THEME: God Cares for Everyone
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY OCTOBER 30 2022.
The wonderful thing about the word of Sacred Scripture is that it opens to us in many mysterious ways the nature of the God whose nature we find difficult to ordinarily understand. In a special way, the liturgical readings tell us who God is in very simple ways. The readings of this 31st Sunday do this revelatory function from different perspectives. The whole readings are summed up or dramatised in the famous story of the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus in the Gospel from Luke 19:1-10. The story gives us a number of points for reflection on the different readings.
1. The first thing that one can say is that it is a very beautiful story. Its brevity makes it even more attractive. Jesus is going through the villages of Jericho and there appears this man called Zacchaeus. His personality brings some contrasts. He is a senior tax officer and a very wealthy man. But he is also a very short man. Despite his great wealth and his exalted office, he suffers a great handicap: his small stature. This prevents him from seeing Jesus as the crowd surges round him. So he does the unimaginable. He climbs a sycamore tree in order to overcome this obstacle on his way to seeing Jesus. He is so eager to catch a glimpse of this famous, itinerant preacher, called Jesus. To his greatest surprise, Jesus takes notice of him and proposes to come to his house. What a joyful surprise! The first lesson from this story is that no effort we make in searching for God goes unrewarded. God takes notice of us even when others and the whole world fail to notice us. This gives us courage to keep striving and keep struggling.
2. Another important message is that God cares for us no matter our state of life and no matter how insignificant we are. The first reading from Wisdom 11:22-12:2 puts it aptly:”For you love all things that exist, and you loathe none of the things which you have made, for you would not have made anything if you had hated it” (11:24). Sometimes, in our narrow ways of thinking, we imagine that we are the only ones that enjoy God’s love and concern, or that our enemies must also be the enemies of God. Yes, we often like to make our friends to hate those we hate. But God is not that way. He cares for everyone because everyone is His creature. He loves every single creature dearly, even the ones we like to hate or despise.
3. Despite our inadequacies, God does everything possible to make us worthy of His call. Paul says this to the Thessalonians in the second reading from 2Thess 1:11-2:2. He prays for the Christian Community that all may reach maturity of faith and so be able to inherit the promised blessings at the appointed time. In the encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus gives him the stupendous gift of his presence and this instantly transforms the life of Zacchaeus. The Christian ministry in the world is a service of rehabilitation and empowerment.
4. Another message from this fascinating story of Zacchaeus is that God has a way of defending us when every other person is accusing us, as long as we remain anchored on Him. The people murmured that Jesus was going to the house of Zacchaeus, saying: “He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house.” There are always people who present themselves as monitoring spirits eager to convince God from blessing us. But Jesus defends 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” (Luke 19:10).
In this encounter, Jesus is teaching us, Christians and Pastors of souls alike, not to be deterred by public opinion in reaching out to needy souls and every member of the community, whether rich or poor, sinner or righteous. Sometimes, public opinion can condemn some as rogues and public sinners. The worst is for us Christians to play along by denying such people our services of care and message of reconciliation. When Scripture says that God cares for all His creatures, it makes no exception. Just as the psalmist of today sings in Psalm 145: “The Lord is kind and full of compassion,
slow to anger, abounding in mercy. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures” (145:8-9).
May this ever loving God bless His words in our hearts!