31st Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 30 October 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Wisdom 11: 22-12:2; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: II Thessalonians 1: 11- 2:2; Gospel: Luke 19: 1-10
“Do you see what I see?” So are the words of the Christmas carol. Now not to fret. While Ordinary Time is drawing to a close and Advent is just weeks away I am not trying to rush Christmas. As I reflected upon and studied our Gospel reading for this Sunday, it is just that phrase that kept stirring within me. We are so powerfully moved in life by what we see. Or perhaps what we think we see.
Luke in the Gospel today tells the account of a wealthy and powerful tax collector named Zacchaeus. His work as a collector of the hated Roman taxes and his greedy and unscrupulous worldly dealings resulted in a man who was recognized as a sinner and a Jew of grossly damaged repute. As a man of wealth and power, he was intrigued to hear that Jesus of Nazareth was coming to Jericho. With his curiosity piqued he went with the crowds as Jesus approached the town. But although he was a man of financial and political stature he was physically not. Being short Zacchaeus could not see through or over the crowd gathering in anticipation of Jesus. So he climbed a Sycamore tree so that from the height o the branches he could see Jesus for himself.
Zacchaeus brings us powerful lessons about our own need to seek, to see Jesus. While our lives and conditions differ many of us can relate well to this man and his wrong choices in life. We can relate that we too may allow material wealth and physical desires to crowd our lives and bring about destructive courses of sin for ourselves and others. We can also relate that while life may be full of stuff and bother we need, we hunger for more. We, like Zacchaeus, want to see Jesus. But how much effort do we give our desires for God? Would we climb a tree to better see Christ? Would we press through the crowds of life and the things that would hinder our faith-view of God, of creation? Zacchaeus would show us how we are brought opportunities of God’s grace throughout life and how we are called to choose how are we going to respond to our need to see Jesus.
But this blessed story perhaps, more importantly, shows us another perspective. The lesson of a short man, a tree and Jesus can bring us to a life-changing realization and question. What did Jesus see? As Jesus looked up into the sycamore, and as he saw the well-dressed little man up in the branches what did Christ see?
Jesus saw Zacchaeus. He saw a greedy, sinful man skilled in manipulating money and power for his own advantage. Jesus saw a sinful man. But Jesus saw much, much more. Jesus saw Zacchaeus forgiven, penitent, and the saint-to-be who would follow Him. To better see what Jesus saw we can bring the light of Scripture into our focus.
In the first Bible reading from the Book of Wisdom we understand God overlooks people’s sins. And that our Creator loves ALL that He has made. The Lover of our souls allows that which pleases Him to remain. Yet it is also while God overlooks our sin He does not ignore it. God sees we are much more than our sins and looks beyond to what He has created and redeemed. This holy, heavenly perspective is expressed in God’s mercy that corrects and rebukes the sinner little by little so that we may abandon wickedness and trust in God. Thus we can grow to see what and how Jesus sees.
Our Responsorial Psalm further affirms this celestial view. “The Lord is gracious and merciful…the Lord lifts up ALL who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.” As we hear these victorious promises we cannot help but proclaim the refrain from our psalm: “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God.”.
As we journey from the Old Testament and our praises of God we come to our second reading. St. Paul in his second letter to the church in Thessalonica reminds the faithful that prayerfully, in holy faith, God shall make them worthy of his calling and purposes. It is from this reminder we return to the Gospel.
As we seek to see what Jesus sees we realize this may be in conflict with the world in which we live. Jesus saw, in Zacchaeus a man far holier and good than the man known by the people of Jericho. But as Jesus saw the sinner so He sees us. As Jesus called Zacchaeus from sin to open his heart and home to God so God calls us. But what Jesus sees and whom He calls may not sit well with the vision and perspectives of the world. No matter how religious or spiritual they may think they are.
When Jesus called the little tax collector to himself when He invited himself to dine and stay with Zacchaeus it was scandalous. Good people, holy people did not, would not be seen going with or dining with the likes of that man. What was wrong with Jesus? Didn’t he realize what kind of man, what a sinner the tax collector was? What Jesus encountered in Jericho he encounters in our lives today. But Jesus came to seek and to save what was lost.
What does Jesus see?
As he looked at Zacchaeus did he see a set of conditions and expectations that would have to be met before communion was shared?
Did he see a man whose very real sins prevented any relationship or mercy unless and until an approved criterion was addressed?
As Jesus looks at souls today struggling in an horrendous array of sin and rebellion does he formulate the judgments and eternal chastisements that are deserved?
Or, does our Redeemer look to ways, to His followers who will share the mercy-filled corrections, little by little that will bring souls back to their God and Savior?
Does Jesus look for his followers that are willing to see the world and each other as God sees us and all He has made?
The Saturday before this 31st Sunday, in the Morning Prayer shared by the Church throughout the world there is a petition from the Intercessions that will change both the Church, the world, and our lives as we, together pray and trust God to empower:
“Enable us to see your image in all men (and women), and to serve you in them.”
It brings us to ask, What will we see, with Jesus?