31st Sunday of Ordinary Time

“Before the Lord, the whole universe is as a grain . . . or a drop of morning dew.”  When was the last time you even noticed one drop of dew, or a single grain?  Those things are so small that we rarely even notice them.  When Scripture says that our whole universe is like a single grain before God, it is actually being generous: because next to God, creation is nothing at all.  The universe, our planet, each and every one of us does not need to exist.  We exist because God created us and He continues to will our existence at each and every moment.  Saint Paul tells us that in God we live and move and have our being.  If God stopped thinking about you, you wouldn’t just die, you would cease to exist.

Yet we do exist.  God created us, and He holds us in existence.  Why?  God created everything out of love.  God is love and love is fruitful.  God created us out of love and He loves His creation; He loves each and every one of us.  It can be hard to grasp the fact that Almighty God, before Whom all the universe is as nothing, could care about you and me.  If the whole universe is as a single grain, how much smaller and insignificant is our whole planet?  Much less an individual human being.  Yet we are made in God’s image and likeness.  God created us to know Him and to love Him.  His greatest desire for each one of us is that we spend all eternity with Him: perfectly united to Him in love.  If we are ever tempted to doubt God’s infinite love for us, all that we have to do is look at a Crucifix: the Crucifix assures us of God’s infinite love for us.  So much does He love each and every one of us that He sent His own Son to die in order to save us from sin and death.

God desires our love; He thirsts that we would thirst for Him.  Jesus shed every single drop of His Most Precious Blood upon the Cross out for love of us, and His desire is that we respond to His love.  Yet God does not coerce us to love Him.  Love cannot be forced.  God never takes our free will away from us: He allows us to choose between Him and sin: between life and death.  Even when we use our free will to sin and turn our backs on God, He does not withdraw His gift of life from us: instead, He patiently calls us to repentance.  As soon as we turn away from our sin and ask Him for forgiveness, God willingly pours His mercy out upon us; and Jesus tells us that there is rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who turns away from sin.

Today’s Gospel is a great example of the way that God calls each one of us.  Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector, and the Gospel tells us that he was a wealthy man.  Many tax collectors in that day were wealthy because they used their position of authority to extort money from the people: that is why “tax collector” in the Gospel is synonymous with “public sinner.”  It was well known that the tax collectors took over and above what they supposed to and thus became wealthy.

Zacchaeus was wealthy, yet his wealth did not satisfy him.  Riches can never satisfy our hearts: we were made for more than this world can offer; we were made for God.  Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus.  He had probably heard the stories about Jesus healing people.  Perhaps he had heard of how Jesus claimed to forgive people their sins.  We do not know what Zacchaeus knew about Jesus, but whatever it was, it was enough to strongly draw him to want to see Our Lord; he wanted to see Jesus so much that he ran ahead and climbed a tree, we are told.  Those facts don’t particularly strike us today, but to those who lived in Jesus’ day, those two facts would have been significant.  People didn’t run, in Jesus’ day: especially not wealthy people.  It was undignified.  They had long robes and in order to run they would have to pull their garments up.  A rich man running through the crowded street would have certainly caught people’s attention.  Then, Zacchaeus climbed a tree.  If running wasn’t undignified enough, here was this wealthy tax collector scurrying up a sycamore tree.  Surely people would be talking about that for days to come!

Yet Zacchaeus forgot himself and his own dignity entirely, he humbled himself and ran and climbed in order to just catch a glimpse of Our Lord.  There must have been a very strong draw on his heart, indeed, in order for him to cast aside his dignity just for a glimpse of Jesus.  What did he expect to see?  When He saw Zaccheaus, Jesus must have noticed the man’s humility and faith; and Jesus gave Zacchaeus more than he had hoped for; Zacchaeus was hoping for a quick look at Jesus; not only did he see Jesus, Jesus spoke to Him and went to eat at his house.

Just as Our Lord called Zacchaeus to Himself, so too He calls each one of us.  He calls us to draw ever closer to Him.  He calls us to set aside pride and sin and humble ourselves.  What if Our Lord appeared and said to you that today He was going to come to your house and eat with you?  First of all, many would probably run home and start cleaning like never before.  How much care would you put into cleaning and preparing the meal?  Wouldn’t you serve Our Lord the very best that you could possibly offer?  The reality is that Our Lord is coming to visit you today: He will come to your soul in Holy Communion.  Do we spend as much effort preparing our hearts to receive Him as we would our homes?  Are our hearts swept clean of sin: are they prepared to receive the King of kings and Lord of lords?  God is love and He loves you, personally, with all that He IS.  Jesus gives Himself to you completely in Holy Communion: He gives you His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.  He asks that we respond by giving Him all of our heart.  Let us pray that we may have hearts that are ready and willing to respond to Him:

Lord Jesus Christ, draw us ever closer to Yourself.  Lord, help us to be aware of the great love that you have for each and every one of us, and may we respond to Your love by seeking You above all else.  Help us, Lord, to love You and to do all that we do for love of You.  Amen.