Nov 16, 2007

Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C - St Aloysius Parish, Cronulla: November, 2007

Readings: Wisdom 11:22- 12:2; Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

View the readings

“Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.”

The story of Zacchaeus is one of the most famous stories from the ministry of Christ. Zacchaeus, a powerful, and most likely a feared personality in Roman society, had heard about Jesus. Zacchaeus was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. Jewish society looked down on the tax collectors. Tax collectors worked for the Roman empire, and their profession was privatised. Tax collectors would presume on the innocence of the people and they would charge much higher taxes to the people than what they should, pocketing several percentage points with each person. Zacchaeus evens admits to having defrauded people.

Zacchaeus was unpopular with the Jewish people. The general working-class would have hated him, and the religious classes – the Pharisees and Saduccees, and others, would have had no time for him as well.

But Zacchaeus was a powerful and feared man. He would have had ready access to the important military and political leaders and he would have seen himself as being a powerful Jewish leader of his time.

Luke tells us in today’s Gospel that Zacchaeus was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was. Zacchaeus wanted to make a judgment about who Jesus was. Zacchaeus did not come to see Jesus to be healed, to be saved or even to become friends with Jesus. Zacchaeus was coming to investigate Jesus. Zacchaeus realised that the only way for a short man to see Jesus was to climb a tree. This leaves us in a wonderful situation where Christ’s words can take on a double meaning. Not only does Christ tell Zacchaeus to “come down” physically from tree, but Christ is saying much more.

Christ is telling Zacchaeus to leave his position of judgment and misguided authority, to leave his investigative position, to leave his separation from the Jewish people and to join Christ and the crowd.

Who would have thought that a simple two words “come down” could have so much meaning.

“Come down” is what Christ is telling us today. Christ is reminding us that we must be humble. We must not judge others and we must not build a separation between ourselves and others.

It is interesting where Christ is positioned in this story. Christ is among the crowd. That is where Christ is calling Zacchaeus firstly to come. The crowd – the crowd is representative of the Church, and the community of believers.

So the message from “come down” for us is that we should be humble and that we find Christ in the context of his community – his crowd of followers, his Church.

The second point is focussed around the word HURRY. Christ tells Zacchaeus to hurry. For Zacchaeus, he probably knew for many years that what he was doing was wrong, but he was comfortable with his power, his money and his prestige. But the Lord tells us that we do not know the time or the hour when the Lord will call us from this life. So we must be prepared. If we have things that we want to say to God or to our friends, then do it now and don’t put it off, because when you put if off, you may run out of time. Don’t leave to tomorrow what can be done today. Heal relationships. Tell a loved one that you love them and are grateful for their love.

The third point is a development from Christ’s words: “I must stay at your house today.”

At the time of Christ, the father of a household was of enormous importance. When Christ tells Zacchaeus that he wants to stay at his house, then Christ’s visit will effect all the members of Zacchaeus household – his wife, children, perhaps relatives, his house-staff and servants.

Furthermore, by Christ being welcomed into the house of Zacchaeus was a very important step for Zacchaeus. In the Jewish tradition, an offer of hospitality, and especially an offer to stay at one’s house, in effect meant that the guest became a member of the family. So for Zacchaeus to accept Jesus’s request to stay at his house, meant in effect that Zacchaeus and his whole household would become members of Jesus family and that Jesus would become a member of Zacchaeus’s family.

For us today, Christ desires to come and stay at our homes. He desires that we more perfectly choose to become members of his family, and that we accept Christ into the context of our homes, our families and into our lives.

But Christ’s coming into the house of Zacchaeus also contains a strong spiritual connection. Will Zacchaeus accept Jesus as his Lord, as his Saviour and as his God? Zacchaeus was accustomed to being in control and that others were under his authority. But by making Jesus a member of his family, Jesus would become an equal with him, he would become a friend, he would become a brother.

Today, Jesus desires to be welcomed into our hearts. As it says in the book of Revelation. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.”

Jesus is knocking and waiting to come into our hearts, into our lives and into our families and communities.

My friends, Jesus is waiting for us. He wants us to be in complete union with him. He wants us to come down. He wants us to be humble and he wants us to find him in the context of his community, of his crowd the Church. Jesus wants to hurry because he desires that we do not miss another day without a total and perfect friendship and relationship with Jesus and his community.

And Jesus wants to come and stay at our homes – he wants to be part of our families and he wants to be part of our lives.

“Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.”

No comments: