Homily for Tuesday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time Cycle I
Theme: AM I WILLING TO GO OUT AND PROCLAIM MY RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS?
By: Rev Fr Utazi Prince Marie Benignus
Homily for Tuesday November 16 2021
SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND OR SAINT GERTRUDE, VIRGIN
2 Maccabees 6: 18-31; Psalm 3: 2-3, 4-5, 6-7; Luke 19: 1-10
I pray for you: May you continue to be strengthened in your faith and be willing to stand up for what you believe. AMEN
Most people do not like confrontation. They will do almost anything to avoid being ridiculed or forced to speak out in a way which will cause others to verbally or physically attack them. Yet, there are occasions when it is important, and imperative, to take a stand for what we hold as important aspects of who we are and what we believe. When we have the courage to stand up for what we value, even to the point of being put down (figuratively or literally), then people will know what we hold as our treasures. Hopefully our relationship to the Lord Jesus will be one aspect of our lives for which we are willing to give witness.
Today’s readings give us accounts of individuals who were willing to publicly give witness to their allegiance to God.
The First Reading presents Eleazar, an aged Jewish scribe, who is willing to die rather than defile himself by eating meat forbidden by the law of God.The aged Eleazar is respected by his contemporaries. However, when it comes down to making a choice of adhering to the law or going along with his friends, he chooses to be faithful to his relationship with God. The Greek ruler had passed a law that all people had to eat pork, which is against the Jewish faith. Eleazars friends pull him aside and suggest that he substitute another meat for pork and therefore obey his conscious and still appear to be doing what the Greek oppressors requested. Eleazar stands firm in his being faithful. He does not want to give a false impression, especially to the youth who would think that he had deserted the ways of the Jewish faith. He is willing to be flogged to death as a witness to his relationship with God.
The Responsorial Psalm is a declaration of the faith in God, even in the face of adversity. The psalmist seems to be in a similar position as Eleazar. His opponents are threatening him. Yet like Eleazar, he stands firm with his faith in God.
In the Gospel, Zacchaeus, a tax collector, professes his new found faith and his purpose of amending the wrongs he had done. As Jesus continues His journey to Jerusalem, He passes Jericho. There, a short tax collector hears about Jesus passing nearby. The tax collector, named Zacchaeus, has heard about Jesus, and wants to see Him, but two things prevent Zacchaeus from seeing Jesus. First, he is short and cannot see past the crowd of taller people. Second, since he is a tax collector, he is despised by the people who refuse to let him get in a position where he can see Jesus. Using some of the cleverness he has as a tax collector, but doing something unbecoming for a man of his position, he runs ahead of the amassing crowd and climbs a sycamore tree so he can see Jesus. As Jesus pass under the tree, He looks up and spies Zacchaeus. HE CALLS ZACCHAEUS BY NAME and orders him to come down from the tree. Jesus then informs him that He will be eating at his house that day. At the dinner, Zacchaeus professes his new found belief in Jesus and shows that he is committed to change in his life. First, he promises to give half of his wealth to the poor.
Second, he promises to refund fourfold anyone whom he has cheated.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, Zacchaeus seems to be a man who is determined. He must not have been that bad of a person, even if he was a tax collector. Mathematically at least, he could not have taken as much of an advantage of people as some tax collectors; since he first gives half of his possession to the poor, and then with what is left, he still has enough money left to repay fourfold anyone he has cheated. The readings of today challenge me on the importance of witnessing to what I believe. I must publicly stand up for my faith, as did Eleazar, the psalmist, and Zacchaeus. What that literally means is that I have to be a martyr. The Greek word martyros means both martyr and witness. Obviously Eleazar gave the ultimate sign of martyrdom by being willing to die rather than go against his relationship with God. He was offered a way to apparently please the oppressing rulers of his day and still be true to his faith. He could pretend to eat the food required by the occupying forces, but substitute kosher food instead. Eleazar, however, did not want to give the wrong impression to anyone, especially to the youth. His commitment to God and his faith had to be honestly and publicly witnessed.
Too, in order to see Jesus, Zacchaeus had first gone out on a limb both literally and figuratively. After Jesus was willing to be his companion and break bread in his house, he also publicly gave witness to his new found faith in Jesus by proclaiming his willingness to forsake his wealth in order to be a disciple. The question before me is: am I at least willing to go out on a limb to show my relationship with Jesus? And since Jesus has demonstrated that He wants to be my companion (literally, to share bread with), I must respond at least as much as Zacchaeus, and maybe as much as Eleazar. I must be a witness a martyr for my relationship with the Lord Jesus. I must be willing to die, if necessary, to show where I stand. Many Christians are doing this, even in this Nigeria and beyond. I must not be afraid.
In Isaiah 43:1-2, the Scripture says But thus now says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob [put your name here], he who formed you O Israel [put your name here]: Fear not for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine Again, in Psalm 69:9, the Scripture says (the psalmist or the Christian is addressing the prayer to God) for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
*MEDITATION* How have I been called to be a witness (martyros) in the past? Have I been willing to publicly give testimony to my faith or have I tried to bluff my way? What can I do to stand up more for my faith? To whom can I give witness of my faith?
*PRAYER* Lord God and Father, we beg you that by the continued outpouring of the power of the Holy Spirit, strengthen us and give us the courage to assert our faith. Through Christ Our Lord. AMEN
*O DIVINE WORD, WHO TOOK FLESH FOR HUMAN SAKE, REDEEM US IN OUR SITUATION*
© Rev Fr Utazi Prince Marie Benignus