Homily For The 31st Sunday In Ordinary Time, Year C Wisdom 11:22-12:2 /Psalm 145/ 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2/ Luke 19:1-10
AGORSOR AARON AGBESHIE
Theme: TO LIVE IS TO CHANGE
Our Liturgy for today draws our attention to the inexhaustible mercy of God. We are also called not to take the mercy of God for granted. We are again reminded that to God the whole world is like a grain of dust. Yet He loves all that exists, and comes to dwell with sinners.
In the First Reading, Wisdom reminds us of the nothingness of man before God. Yet, in our nothingness, God cares for us even when we stray. He says, “In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust like a drop of morning dew falling to the ground” (Wisdom 11:22). This means that perhaps God can do without us because if the whole world is like a dew before God then what about you and me? It is humbling to hear that even though we may appear to be insignificant before God, he cares for each and every one of us.
Wisdom says this about God “You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life, you whose imperishable spirit is in all” (Wisdom 11:26-12:1). Indeed, God’s imperishable Spirit is in all things He has created and so he cannot hate what he has created. This is why God cannot afford to lose anyone. He desires that all of us should come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved. However, because of the free will God has given us, man sometimes chooses not to be saved. But even when we reject God, he does not reject us.
“ Therefore, you correct little by little those who trespass, and you remind and warn them of the things through which they sin, so that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in you, O Lord” ( Wisdom 12:2). These words are true for Zacchaeus in the Gospel reading of today. He experienced the inexhaustible mercy of God when he was privileged to encounter Jesus on the road to Jericho. Zacchaeus never called Jesus; he was only fascinated about the man Jesus and just wanted to see him. But Jesus who sees the heart of man saw that the man needed something more than just seeing him and so “When Jesus came to the place , he look up and said to him ‘ Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today” ( Luke 19:5).
I think that the humility of Zacchaeus drew Jesus’ attention to him for we are told that because he was too short in stature, “He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way” (Luke 19:4). Can you imagine a rich chief tax collector climbing a tree just because he wanted to see a poor man? Indeed, the mercy of God is available to all to access but it demands of us a little bit of effort. For St. Augustine, when God decided to create us, He did not consult us but He cannot save us without our consent.
The preceeding verses were about the healing of the blind beggar. He called out to Jesus for help. In the case of Zacchaeus, Jesus takes the initiative to welcome him. In both cases, the crowd tried became an obstacle but they did not allow it to hinder them from seeing Jesus. Let us watch out for the “crowd” (the Pulling Down syndrome). A lot of people followed Jesus but it is only those who desire to encounter him who will see him. Our encounter with Jesus must be personal. The very moment we truly encounter Jesus, our unworthiness is laid bare and so for Jesus to go to the house of Zacchaeus was the realization of his undivulged dream. It meant that Zacchaeus wanted the opportunity to reform his life but perhaps because his fellow Jews have already condemned him, he saw in Jesus a man who came to seek the lost.
It is as if to say that in gratitude to God for mercy shown him, he said, “… Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much” (Luke 19:8). Do the scripture not say that this is necessary? “How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24-25). Riches are an obstacle and Zacchaeus removed that obstacle.
According to Abraham Marslow’ Hierarchy of needs, at the apex is ‘Self-actualisation.’ This was the level Zacchaeus had attained. He has all the luxuries the world gives but something precious was missing (Self- transcendence) in his life namely Jesus. That is why it is not surprising that rich and powerful as he was, he would climb a tree (something perhaps unheard off of someone of his status) to get what he wanted.
Our encounter with Jesus must necessarily cause us something we cherish so much. It must effect a desired transformation in our lives. This is because the very thing we so much cherish, is what the Lord is demanding of us. For Zacchaeus, he recognized it and gave it freely to Jesus. Do you know what the Lord is demanding of you?
In sum, it is said that to live is to change and to be holy is to have changed often. The only thing that is constant in this world is change. Change, we must otherwise we miss the opportunity to encounter Jesus as Zacchaeus did. We must always recognize that God’s love reaches us in different ways. Each one of us is the masterpiece of God’s creation. God loves us. If only we could spend some time in silent reflection each day listening to his voice speaking to us through people and events, what a different world it would make!