Sunday Sermon for October 30, 2022, the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Wis 11:22-12:2; 2 Thes 1:11-2:2; Lk 19:1-10
In the Gospel reading today we hear about Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector who wanted to see Jesus. The problem the man had in trying to see the Lord is that he was short in stature. Obviously, one’s height does not matter in the least in spiritual matters; what is important for all of us is what we read about Zacchaeus: he was seeking to see who Jesus was.
Are we truly seeking God? Do we really want to know Jesus? For those who might poke fun at those who are short (or at any other issue we might see in another person), we need to learn a critical lesson from Zacchaeus. It is precisely because of his stature that we are shown this lesson. Zacchaeus had to make a determined effort to see Jesus. His desire was so great that he was willing to climb a tree in order to merely catch a glimpse of our Lord as He walked by.
Based on what the Gospel tells us, we might assume that Zacchaeus was not a young man. I say this because we are told he was wealthy and a chief tax collector. I assume that in order to amass the fortune necessary to be considered wealthy, a number of years would be required. I am also assuming that the title of chief tax collector implies several promotions over a period of time. I say all of this simply to point out that climbing a tree might not have been a particularly simple task since Zacchaeus was probably not a man in his twenties.
If this is the case, then his age and his stature help us by providing a context that we can apply to ourselves. We all have problems that might keep us down. Even for those who have the mental strength to put their weaknesses aside, we see in the first reading that compared to God, the universe is like a single grain. Compared to the universe, we are tiny. So, if the universe is like a grain of wheat compared to God, that makes us less than a speck of dust. In fact, St. Louis Marie de Montfort says that compared to God, Mary is less than a speck of dust. She is huge compared to us, so we are considerably less than a speck of dust.
This makes all of us small of stature, even if we are seven feet tall or weigh over 300 pounds. This means we have to choose to want to see God, that is, to know Him and love Him. Like Zacchaeus, we will have to make a determined effort if we want union with Him. I realize that being less than a speck of dust, desiring union with God sounds absurd. However, in the first reading God is called the “lover of souls.”
Even more wonderful is that St. Paul reminds us that God has called us, now we must strive to be worthy of that call. In other words, God did not call us because we were worthy; He called unworthy people and now provides the grace for us to become worthy of our call. He called us because He loves us. Thankfully, being God, He does not need a microscope to see His smaller than dust creatures. He knows each of us personally; He knows who we are, what we like, what we think is important, etc. He knows every detail about everything in our lives.
Having been called, God now awaits our response. I realize that in most cases, if you are reading this you have already responded to the Lord. But I am asking if we are saying “yes” to Him and carrying on with our lives as though nothing is different, or if, like Zacchaeus, our lives have changed to reflect our choice for God. When Zacchaeus was called, he changed his ways and the Lord said salvation had come to Zacchaeus. Many other people wanted to see Jesus, but no such thing was said to anyone else in the crowd. Only Zacchaeus was called.
What would such a change look like in our lives? In the second reading, St. Paul says that in every effort of faith, the Name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in us and we in Him according to God’s grace. This echoes what our Lord told us when He said we need to let our light shine so that when people see our good works they give glory to our Heavenly Father. This is our privilege and the glory of our call. To live in a manner worthy of our calling is to bear witness to Jesus by our words and actions so people see Him rather than us and glorify His Name!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.