Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year C

Stephen M. Curry, O.S.A.
Merrimack College
North Andover, Massachusetts

Wis 11: 22 – 12: 2
Ps 145: 1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
2 Thes 1: 11 – 2: 2
Lk 19: 1-10

If we could travel in time, I would take us back 2000 years ago to the time of Jesus. Upon arrival, we would meet a tax collector. The tax collectors were told by their king or emperor the amount of money that they needed to collect from each person in their kingdom. Any amount that they could collect from the people in excess of this amount they would keep for themselves. As a result, they were mean and abusive toward the people, and were very corrupt. No one liked them. They were the most despised people at their time.

With this description as background information, we have today’s Gospel. Jesus reaches out to Zacchaeus the tax collector to save him. Jesus extends himself to the lowest, most despised person in society and offers him the love of God. In addition, Jesus says that he wants to go to Zacchaeus’ home to spend time with him.

Going to a sinner’s house was contrary to the Mosaic laws. The Jewish people followed 613 laws in order to be pure in the eyes of God. If someone went to a sinner’s home, that person was also rendered an unclean sinner. Jesus knew this interpretation of the Jewish laws, yet he did not let the letter of the law prohibit Him from reaching out with God’s love to the lowest, most hated group of people.

Reaching out to others with God’s love is what the first two readings talk about. The first reading says that “God has mercy on all, because He can do all things; and God overlooks people’s sins that they may repent.” St. Paul in the second reading says: “We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.”

The message of God reaching out with His love to others is the same message that God has for us. God is always knocking on the door of our hearts to invite us into a deeper relationship with Him. He is always gracing us. It is up to us to open the doors of our heart to accept this love. Let us each pray that we may have the same desire to have Jesus in our lives that Zacchaeus did. May God help us to change our hearts so that we too may put away any sinfulness in our lives that hurts others. Let us “praise God’s name forever, our king and our God.”

This is the message that we would have experienced if we would have met Zacchaeus the tax collector 2000 years ago. This is what today’s readings teach us. This is the same message that God has for each and every one of us. Let us go the extra mile and bring ourselves before the Lord to deepen our relationship with Him and one another.