November 3rd : Gospel Reflection for this Sunday The 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Called, Loved and Forgiven
Can you recall last Sunday’s Gospel? It told us the parable of two unnamed men; a Pharisee and a Tax Collector. One thinks that he is better than everyone else; the other knows that he is a loved sinner. It is from the lips and the heart of this humble and honest tax collector that we have this great prayer; ‘Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.’ This Sunday we have the story of another tax collector whose name we do know; Zacchaeus.
Zacchaeus is not only a tax collector, he is chief tax collector. His job was to collect taxes from the Romans from other Jews. If the Romans wanted five gold pieces from someone, Zacchaeus could take ten and keep five for himself. Tax collectors cheated whenever they could and stole from whom ever they could. They were hated and despised. They were treated as sinners.
Zacchaeus is a small man. When Jesus arrives in the town with the crowd, he can’t see over the tall people. So he runs ahead and climbs a tree. Why? He was anxious to see Jesus and wanted to get a glimpse of him as he passed that way. Zacchaeus knows that he despised and hated by others. All he wants to do is get a glimpse of Jesus from a safe distance. He doesn’t really want to meet Jesus. Perhaps he feels that Jesus wouldn’t want to meet someone with his reputation. But as Jesus is walking by, he looks up and calls this little strange man in the tree by his name! So clearly he knows about him and has heard about him. Jesus says to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ It is important to note that Jesus does not condemn or criticize Zacchaeus; he does not demand that he pay back the money that he stole; he does not tell him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. He doesn’t ask him to do anything! He simply calls him by his name and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house for a meal. Jesus calls and loves him just as he is. It is because he knows that he is loved and accepted that Zacchaeus changes his way of life.
If we are honest with ourselves, we are just the same as Zacchaeus. We all know that we do and say things that we shouldn’t – it’s as simple as that. Perhaps like this little tax collector, we too want to keep Jesus at a safe distance. But Jesus knows us; he knows who we are and what we have done. He knows our name and calls us every day just as he called Zacchaeus. Jesus loves and accepts us as we are and wants to be with us in a very personal and intimate way too.
Changing our ways is not easy. It takes courage, honesty and great humility. But we are not our own; Jesus is always with us to encourage, support and help us – if we accept his personal invitation and spend time with him as Zacchaeus did. We are not expected to change on our own and I don’t think we can. Jesus calls us by our name and stands with us. This week, let us look to this little tax collector, Zacchaeus with the big heart. Can we follow his example; can we change our ways?
With God’s helps, is there one small thing that I can change this week about how I behave and how I treat other people?
-Br Michael Moore OMI
Gospel for Sunday November 3rd : Luke 19:1-10 ©
Jesus dines with Zacchaeus, searching for what was lost
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “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.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
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