Homily for the thirty-first Sunday of the Year - Year C - Lk. 19:1-10


by

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
 
 

" Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, «Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.» So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, «He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.» And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, «Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.» And Jesus said to him, «Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.» "




Homily:


" Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. "


The episode recounted by Saint Luke in this Sunday's Gospel takes place shortly before the Passion of the Lord. After going to Jericho, Jesus would continue on to Bethany and then to Jerusalem, entering that city in triumph on Palm Sunday. Jesus had a well-established reputation: he was thought to be the great Prophet that everyone awaited, the Messiah! So a multitude of people rushed to Jericho when Jesus went there. There were many people there, so many in fact that those who were of small stature, like Zacchaeus, a publican or tax-collector, could not see this Jesus about whom one heard so much: "He sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature."


If all this had taken place today, Jesus would have had no trouble being seen by everyone, or almost everyone. Assuming that Jesus would be of interest to as many people today, proportionally speaking, as he was to those of his time - which remains to be proven - then there is no doubt that almost everyone would be able to see him enter Jericho, or, for that matter, Rome, Paris, or London... Indeed, television allows someone to be seen everywhere at once, throughout the entire world! But would each one of us have demonstrated a great desire to see Jesus? How much effort is required to look at that screen, that magic lantern? Without doubt, our effort today would be less great and less meritorious than that of Zacchaeus nearly two thousand years ago...


" So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, «Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.» "


Religion disturbs us! Faith and morals are demanding! To go to Heaven, one must make an effort! Let us not forget, Jesus is only a few days away from his Passion! The Holy Spirit is upon him and guides him on his way to Jerusalem. But, on the way there, the Spirit of the Lord acts upon the men and women of the towns and villages Jesus goes through, and he, the Spirit, the Power of God, already pours himself out upon these future disciples of Christ: he provokes in them heroic thoughts and deeds. Notably, he inspires Zacchaeus to make an effort to see this Jesus, the great Prophet. So Zacchaeus runs to where the Lord is headed, he precisely determines where he will pass, he climbs up a tree, a sycamore, and he awaits his passage! Truly, Zacchaeus goes out of his way and makes an effort to see Jesus! His effort will be greatly rewarded...


" And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, «Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.» So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. "


Zacchaeus demonstrated his love for Jesus by making an effort to see him. For his part, Jesus demonstrated his Love for Zacchaeus in particular, and for all men in general, by inviting himself to stay at Zacchaeus' house. What a marvelous exchange! Love for love! "Jesus said, «If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.»" (Jn. 14:23) If Christ stays at the home of Zacchaeus on this day, he does so to express, through this sign, his entry into the heart of this same Zacchaeus. For, indeed, it is the coming of the Lord into our soul that is important...


To make an effort to see Jesus... What a goal! It is certainly in Heaven that all of us, if we make an effort, will be able to see Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, living in the Holy Spirit. Then, eternally, God the Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - will live in us and we in him! But, already, all of this can be realized today. For we can receive the Lord in us through the sacrament of the Eucharist: if we make an effort, day after day, to keep ourselves pure of every sin, then, truly, God remains in us and we in God in holy communion. "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him." (Jn. 6:56)


" And when they saw it they all murmured, «He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.» And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, «Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.» And Jesus said to him, «Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.» "


Zacchaeus was a sinner... Who is not a sinner? Who has never been one? Only the Most Blessed Virgin Mary has never sinned. So, when Jesus says: "the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost," does this mean that Jesus did not come to earth for Mary? Certainly not. Jesus came into the world first for Mary - for she was the first, in time, to benefit from the presence of the Savior - and then for all other men and women. But Mary, included in time, far from rejecting sinners, forms but a single body with them, with us! Mary, conceived without sin, is the Mother of all men: she has, with all sinners, a unique link, one that renders her solidary with everyone!


We too, today, like yesterday and tomorrow, we are solidary with all sinners. And if my neighbor has sinned, I am, in a certain sense, responsible for his sin. Similarly, if I want Peace to reign in the world, I must first place peace in my heart, in my home, my family, my surroundings, my country! If each one of us makes an effort to see the Lord and to await his passage, then there is no doubt that the Lord, who is the Prince of Peace, will come and dwell among us!



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