31st Sunday In Ordinary Time
Reading: Luke 19:1-10
The Book of Wisdom provides this weekend’s first reading. As the condition of the environment has absorbed more and more public interest, the Pope and other agencies of the Church have addressed the problems of exploiting nature. This reading, while composed many, many centuries ago, states the underlying principle in the Church’s teaching on respecting the environment.
This principle is that God is the Creator of all and the author of all life. It should be recalled that Wisdom was written in a world highly influenced by Greek philosophy. Surrounding Greek philosophy was Greek mythology, which saw gods and goddesses as being within nature. They had control over nature, of course, and could exercise their control in ways not necessarily kind to humanity.
For the second reading, the Church gives us a passage from the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.
While the nature within which humans live while on earth is marvelous, and is God’s loving gift, it is not everything. God calls us to eternal life. He gives us Jesus. The Lord became human, as are we, bonding with us in the mystery called by theologians “the Incarnation.” Through the Incarnation, through the redemption accomplished by Jesus on Calvary and in the resurrection, and by accepting God’s gift of faith, we gain the supreme result of possessing the gift of Jesus. We gain life eternal with God.
Constantly, the Pauline epistles summoned Christians, such as the faithful in Thessalonica, to realize the wonder and greatness of God’s gift of Jesus. But never do the Pauline epistles lead anyone down a primrose path. The epistles, and this reading in particular, remind believers that the path through life with God is rough and crooked and beset with dangers and attractive detours. We must be resolute in our determination to be with God.
For its last reading, the Church gives us a selection from St. Luke’s Gospel. The Lord was on the way Jericho, an ancient city not far from the Dead Sea that is mentioned in several dramatic Old Testament passages. It was a city seated at the foot of the great Judean mountains, a virtual oasis in a stark and lifeless terrain.
While Jericho offered security to so many, and offers security still, Jesus truly brings life and security.
Zacchaeus was wealthy, but Luke’s Gospel sees wealth as a burden. The poor are closer to God. They are unencumbered. Additionally, Zacchaeus was a tax collector, a disgusting occupation among the Jews. Tax collectors worked for the detested Romans, and the system made them little else other than legalized thieves. Nevertheless, Jesus, the Lord of life, freed Zacchaeus from the heavy burden of sin and gave him life.
Climbing the tree on the part of Zacchaeus teaches us two important lessons. Despite all his wealth, he was subject to the simple obstacles confronting everyone, namely the inability to see through or over others. And, Zacchaeus desperately wanted to see Jesus, realizing that wealth offered no lasting satisfaction.
In just three weeks the Church will close its liturgical year. The weekend following, four weeks from this weekend, it will lead us into a new year of worship and reflection. But, before then, it will call us to close this year in a mood profoundly hopeful and thankful.
We have hope, and we give thanks, because we are one with God, in Jesus. The key is truly to be with Jesus, without compromise, without pause. Our union with the Lord must be perfect. Jesus is our king.
This weekend’s reading points us toward the Feast of Christ the King, the great celebration closing this year.
Our life and our security are in Jesus. We must realize that we are as desperately in need of the Lord as was Zacchaeus.
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