A HOMILY FOR THE THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-CYCLE”C”- 11/3/13 – SMG
Pax et Bonum!
2013 has been quite a year for the bad guys. This year we learned that Captain Francesco Schettino, the Italian Sea Captain who in January of 2012 wrecked the Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy, was actually entertaining his mistress when the tragedy occurred. He was so busy getting himself and his girl friend off the boat, that apparently he forgot all about the other passengers, and 39 people died. It was also in 2013 that we learned the horrible stories about Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Abortion doctor that operated his own little shop of horrors for poor women for years in Philadelphia. You know, wasn’t having abortion legal supposed to prevent such things from happening? Remember that one? Then it was last summer that we learned the story of Ariel Castro, and how he had held three young women captive in his house of terror in Cleveland for almost eleven years. You know, you hear these stories of bad people, and I don’t know about you, but I always think that it can’t get worse than this story. And then, sure enough, another worse story comes along. There are plenty of people who do bad things in our world today.
Our Gospel introduces us today to a man who did bad things back in Jesus’ day. Zacchaeus. Now, we’ve got to understand how hated Zacchaeus and the other tax collectors were back in Jesus’ time. It is not an exaggeration for us to say that Zacchaeus was Captain Francesco Schettino, and Dr. Kermit Gosnell, and Ariel Castro, all rolled into one. And you might say, well, Zacchaeus never killed anybody. And while that’s true. Zacchaeus was seen as a traitor to his people. Zacchaeus worked for the Romans, the pagans. And he collected money for the Roman occupiers. And he did this dirty work, at the expense of his own people, while he got very wealthy off of it. Plus, tax collectors were notorious thieves. They would charge more than what the Romans demanded, and then keep the extra for themselves. Tax collectors like Zacchaeus were liars, cheats, and they often took their stolen money and lived lavish lifestyles that rubbed their crimes in the face of the people that they betrayed. Zacchaeus didn’t kill anybody. But he so hurt the living, that his sins and his crimes were seen as worse than murder. He didn’t take people’s lives. But he did take their livelihoods. Zacchaeus is a bad man. And because he was a small man, Zacchaeus most likely had to work harder, and be meaner, to protect himself and his assets. We most likely don’t want to know what Zacchaeus had to do for his own protection and to protect his lifestyle.
So Jesus enters into this picture. Quite literally, He walks down the street one day. And who knows why, but wicked little tax collector Zacchaeus goes out to see Him. Was he curious? Did he want something? Did he think that Jesus could help him? Perhaps he thought he could get some tax money from our Lord. We don’t know why. And then of course, getting out there, and because of the crowd, and because Zacchaeus was vertically-challenged, he’s got to climb a tree to even get to see Jesus. And that’s when it happened. Jesus stopped and pointed to Zacchaeus. And everything changed.
Jesus changed Zacchaeus that day. This is so very important. Jesus did this. He didn’t change himself. Jesus’ love melted the heart of this very hardened man, and he became a new creation in Christ. This Gospel is such great news for you and me. And do you know why? We, all of us, also have our bad sides. It’s true. Everybody’s got their own little bad man or bad woman inside of them. And we all try so desperately to control our bad person. And so much of the time, it doesn’t work. We can’t do it. We can’t be holy. We can’t do the right thing. We can’t be the person that we want to be, even that we were designed to be, at least not on our own. But with the help of God, with Jesus’ love, and grace, and help every day, we can be saints. We can be holy. We can be the people that God created us to be.
But like Zacchaeus, we’ve got to be open to that love and the power of that love. Most of us, are so busy and frustrated trying to do it all by ourselves, that we close ourselves off to Christ Who is exactly Who we most need to conquer our sins. Zacchaeus found it very easy after he let Jesus in. Is our problem that we are keeping Jesus out? We need prayer, we need the Sacraments, we need community and to serve God’s people! You can keep trying to do it on your own and keep failing. OR… You can let Jesus’ love change you today? Today, when you come up here for Communion, pray that His love would change you!
+May God bless us today, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!