The 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Wis 11:22—12:2 + 2 Thes 1:11—2:2 + Lk 19:1-10
November 3, 2019
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus….
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click HERE to hear Scott Hahn’s reflection for this liturgical Sunday (2:59)
click HERE to watch Jeff Cavins’ reflection for this Sunday (4:16)
click HERE to read the homily of Monsignor Charles Pope for this Sunday
click HERE to watch the homily of Archbishop Charles Chaput for this Sunday
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click HERE to read Pope Francis’ 2016 Angelus address for this Sunday
click HERE to read Pope Emeritus Benedict’s 2010 Angelus address for this Sunday
click HERE to read St. John Paul II’s 2002 Letter to Priests for Holy Thursday [see sections 4-9]
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Out of the 52 Sundays of the Church year, more than thirty are Sundays in Ordinary Time. When we reach these “Thirty-something” weeks, the Church’s liturgical year is drawing to a close. During these final weeks, the Church focuses on what are called “the Last Things”: that is, realities commonly associated with the end of the world. The Last Things are Heaven, Hell, death and judgment.
Nonetheless, the Gospel on this 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time is not dramatic or apocalyptic. It’s a simple story about Jesus and a fellow of short stature named Zacchaeus. Yet the simplicity of this story helps us relate to it. We might be impressed or even awed by dramatic stories about the end times, but it’s hard—once we return to the ordinary grind of daily life—to convince ourselves that such stories have much to do with us. But the story about Zacchaeus is easier for us to relate to because it’s such a humble story.
Look at Zacchaeus. He is a rich collector of taxes. Each of us, like him, is attached to worldly things. Zacchaeus (meaning you) wants to see who Jesus is, but Zacchaeus has two strikes against him.
The first strike against Zacchaeus is the crowd, because everyone wants to see Jesus. It’s easy to get lost and to feel unloved when you’re in the middle of a crowd. You might ask, “How can Jesus love everyone?” The second strike against Zacchaeus is his small size, which may represent the size of our souls. You might feel unworthy of God’s love and ask, “How could Jesus love me, as small as I am?”
That’s why Zacchaeus climbs up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus. This is all Zacchaeus wants: simply to see Jesus. But that’s not enough for Jesus. This reveals to us an important point about the spiritual life. God always wants more for us than we want for ourselves. The question, then, is whether we’re willing to do what’s needed to accept what God wants for us.
This brings us to the turning point in Sunday’s Gospel passage. When Jesus reached the place where Zacchaeus had climbed the tree, Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly; for today I must stay at your house.” Jesus takes the initiative to reach out to this individual. Likewise, just as he reached out to this little sinner, he is trying to reach into your life.
This passage illustrates the point and purpose of the spiritual life: that God would dwell within us, and from within, transform us. This is the point of listening to God in the Liturgy of the Word at Holy Mass: to come down from our self-regard and allow Jesus to enter our home—to enter our soul—in order to transform us from within through the grace of the Eucharist in Holy Communion.
In the last sentence of today’s Gospel passage, Jesus offers Zacchaeus hope. Zacchaeus knew that he was coming up short in life, but he didn’t know if Jesus would offer him what he was lacking. Jesus responds by declaring, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”