October 29/30 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Paul T. Keil

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, 10-30-22, Year C

          Peace be with you on this our celebration of the Mass for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary time.  OK folks, I’m going to ask two questions, but I don’t want to embarrass anyone, so I won’t ask for a show of hands.  The first question is, did you go to Mass last weekend?  The second question is a little harder, if you went to Mass, do you remember what the Gospel reading was about?  For those who answered both yes, and yes, I apologize, because I’m going to review a little.  For those who answered no, just listen up, because you’re getting a second chance.  Last week we heard Jesus tell a parable about a righteous Pharisee and a humble tax collector praying in the Temple.  Ultimately, Jesus said the tax collector went home justified because in his humility he recognized and repented his own sinfulness.  What I really want to emphasize however, is Father’s homily.  He described how those two men would have been viewed in the eyes of a 1st Century Jew, as opposed to the way we think about them today.  Jesus’s actual listeners would have clearly viewed the Pharisee as the good guy and the tax collector as the evil bad guy.  That simple parable would have completely shocked a 1st Century Jew.

          So, today we heard about a cute little guy named Zacchaeus climbing a sycamore tree in Jericho, right?  My sisters and brothers, I’ve thought long and hard about attempting to describe how hated, feared, and evil this guy would have been seen to those citizens of Jericho 2000 years ago.  Anyone remember Bernie Madoff?  Bernie orchestrated the biggest Ponzi Scheme in history.  He swindled thousands of innocent investors out of billions of dollars over years of illegally manipulating the financial system.  The difference between Bernie and Zacchaeus is, however, Bernie went to prison, but Zacchaeus was officially empowered by his boss, the Roman Emperor, to swindle his own countrymen to the maximum extent possible.  He must have been good at his job too, because the Gospel says he, “was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man.”  Cute little Zacchaeus was a sinfully bad man.  Friends, I hope this helps set the scene and ultimately, realize how great the good news message is in today’s Gospel.

          There are numerous reasons why scholars often view Jericho as a Biblical metaphor for a city of sin.  Geographically it is only 17 miles east of Jerusalem but an actual 3,500’ drop in elevation.  When you leave Jerusalem, the City of God, you literally go way down to Jericho.  It is the first enemy city Joshua, and the Israelites must conquer when they enter the promised land about 1250 BC.  In Luke’s previous chapter, it is where the blind beggar, Bartimaeus, sees Jesus as the Messiah, where those with vision are spiritually blind to his identity, including the 12 Apostles.  The assaulted traveler in the Good Samaritan parable was “going down” to Jericho.  The despot, Herod, built his winter palace there.  And finally, today’s Gospel story about a sinful and wealthy chief tax collector.  We might even say Jericho spiritually stands for our own dysfunctional human family.  Our fallen compromised world.

Brothers and sisters, in a way, we are all citizens of Jericho and to some extent, every one of us should identify with sinful Zacchaeus.  Consequently, Jesus’s entire ministry is spiritually, really, nothing more than a sustained act of passing through Jericho, our fallen compromised world.  And today Jesus encounters Zacchaeus.  We don’t really know what drew him to go see Jesus in the first place.  Maybe it was an inner conviction, he was getting richer but not happier, but you know what that lure towards Jesus is called?  It’s called Grace.  And one lesson for us today is this, never, never ignore the lure of grace.

So, here’s a man with the authority of Rome behind him and he chooses to climb a tree to see Jesus?  Really?  Certainly, he could have easily demanded anyone blocking his view at ground level to simply, “get out of my way.”  Well, you think maybe Zacchaeus didn’t want to get that close to Jesus in the first place.  Maybe he intentionally wanted a bleacher seat.  Regardless, when Jesus sees him up there in that tree, we hear a simple sentence that can potentially define the whole spiritual life for any of us.  “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”

Friends, sin is the most elemental form of human dysfunction and salvation from sin never comes from our own effort.  Nothing the physical world offers, can save us from sin.  This is the most fundamental problem facing humanity.  Many things the modern would offers can help, medical advancements, phycological treatments, charitable organizations, peace keeping organizations, but ultimately God’s power bursting in from the outside is the final fact of salvation.  That’s called grace.

So, today we heard Jesus say, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”  Jesus’s invitation to, “stay at your house” has already been offered to each and every one here today, or we would not be sitting in a Church at all.  So now, the question we must all go home and pray about and meditate on is simply, where does Jesus live in my house?  Have we made space for him at all?  In today’s Gospel Zacchaeus empties his life out and allows Jesus to take over his house.  Just listen to Jesus’s closing words.  “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

So, your homework for today is this, go home and decide where Jesus lives in your house.  Hopefully, He is not in a back closet somewhere that only gets opened once a week for Mass.  What Jesus really wants is to be invited to take over our homes. 


  • GeorgeskatePosted on 11/04/22

    as discussed here is url Black Friday Deal

    It will expire in 24 hours, save for later use:)


    Have a good day!