Homily for 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

posted Oct 28, 2016, 11:27 AM by Church Office   [ updated Oct 28, 2016, 11:27 AM by Michelle Massung ]

            Today, Jesus is just passing through Philipsburg, and is looking for a place to eat.  What if he asked to come to your house for dinner? What preparations would you make? Would you clean your house?  Buy groceries for a nice dinner? Get some fresh flowers, make sure the lawn is mowed and the leaves raked? Would you take a shower and get dressed up in one of your most beautiful outfits?

            Well, in today’s Gospel. Jesus is passing through Jericho and never intended to stop for dinner until he spots Zacchaeus in the tree and decides to invite himself to dinner at his house.  Now who is this Zacchaeus and why did Jesus want to have dinner with him?  He was a chief tax collector and worked for the Roman Empire collecting toll taxes from the people in the area.  A toll tax is like an export/import tax for goods to be sold in Jericho.  He had other tax collectors working for him.  He was despised by the people because he cheated them out of money.  He would overcharge them the tax and keep the difference for himself. If they did not pay the tax, Zacchaeus could call in the Roman guards and confiscate the goods they were trying to sell.  Zacchaeus hears that a celebrity named Jesus is coming to town and wants to catch a glimpse of him as he passes through town.  He goes out of his way to see Jesus by climbing a tree.  He had all the worldly possession he needed but still was missing something in his life and was curious about Jesus. 

            So what happens when they meet?  Jesus, having never met Zacchaeus, calls him by name and tells him he wants to have dinner at his house.  The others in the town are envious that Jesus is going to have dinner at the house of a sinner.  This is very typical of Luke and his Gospel.  Jesus seems to always be eating with sinners in Luke’s Gospel.  Then what happens? Zacchaeus repents and turns his life around.  He agrees to give money back to the poor and return fourfold what he had cheated others out of when he collected the taxes.  He has a complete change of heart.  He declares his own penance for his sins and promises to make amends.  To me the question is, did Jesus enter Zacchaeus’ house or his heart? His heart of course.  Others despised Zacchaeus, yet Jesus showed him his love and mercy and as a result, Zacchaeus elected on his own to repent.  Jesus did not even ask him if he was sorry for his sins.  He didn’t have to.  Zacchaeus now realizes that his true happiness resides in his love for Christ and not in his worldly possessions.

            In a similar way, I lived a life like Zacchaeus before dedicating my life to the Church.  I had people working for me and I had accumulated some wealth.  Yet, I was still missing that inner peace.  Once I really developed a personal relationship with Jesus, my worldly possessions just didn’t seem to be that important, except for my golf clubs of course.  My priorities changed and I was more concerned about the welfare of others. 

            How does Philipsburg compare to Jericho?  Well, like in the story, people try to prevent us from getting closer to Jesus like they did Zacchaeus.  Don’t we have marketing and advertising people that try and convince us to “just do it” or “try it, you’ll like it”, or any other gimmick or marketing slogan to convince us that buying their product will bring us happiness.  And for the most part, we buy into that message.  Society tries to convince us that accumulating wealth, power, and prestige are the keys to happiness.  If that is the case, then why do so many mega lottery winners end up killing themselves? 

            Jesus enters the heart of Zacchaeus and as a result, repents and changes his life around.  Do we have that same desire to seek Jesus as Zacchaeus did? We come here today to mass seeking Jesus in the Eucharist didn’t we?  We are all sinners and we need to approach Jesus and ask him for his mercy and forgiveness.  Yet, do we take this reception of Jesus for granted or are we open to his love and mercy?  Are we willing to allow Jesus to change our hearts like he did for Zacchaeus?  Are we now more willing to help others, especially forgiving those people in our lives that have wronged us?  Jesus extends his love and mercy to Zacchaeus and as a result, he has a change of heart.  Jesus wants to enter our hearts today and change them like he did for Zacchaeus.  So what are we called to do? We are called to extend that same love and mercy to others that we need to forgive in our lives or people that we are angry with, or envious of or jealous of.  To be Christ-like means we are called to show unconditional love and mercy to others. 

            So, Jesus is in Philipsburg today and is truly coming to you through the Eucharist.  Welcome him and allow him to change your heart like he did for Zacchaeus.  Oh, as Paul Harvey would say, the name Zacchaeus means pure or clean.  So now, you know the rest of the story.