Reflections on the Readings
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 31, 2010 - Year C
Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost
By Dennis S. Hankins
Lover of Souls
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
Every evening Adam and Eve visited with God. Then something terrible happened. Our first parents lost their way; they had eaten of the forbidden tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were empowered by this new knowledge to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. Innocence became suspect. And Adam and his wife Eve veiled themselves from each other; they also hid from God.
Their home was the Garden of God. In this place our first parents delighted in their Maker and Provider. But now hearing the familiar sound of God arriving from the east side of Eden, Adam and Eve hid themselves among the trees of the Garden. "Adam," God called. There was no answer. Adam's lostness and reluctance permeated the air. God lifted his voice again and called out, "Adam, my dear son, where are you?" Adam, in whom God had breathed the breath of life, peaked out from behind the trees.
Today we learn that Zaccaheus is lost. He is not very tall and is unable to see Jesus because of the crowd. He scoots up a sycamore tree from where he sees Jesus without any hindrance. Jesus' fame precedes him and Zacchaeus a rich tax collector is well known too. He is also despised. Tax collectors don't make friends easily. Still, this chief tax collector, who is also a son of Abraham, desires to see Jesus. Soon he learns that Jesus wants to see him too.
Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He is not willing that any should die outside of his mercy. Opposing no one, with love for all of his creation, he especially loves humanity, in whom is the imperishable breath of God. This is why Jesus seeks the wayward and lost Zacchaeus, a son of Abraham. It is why he saves you and me, and all who will receive him.
Coming to the sycamore tree, Jesus spies Zacchaeus. And the loving and friendly voice of Jesus calls out, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down. I want to go home with you." And this friendless tax man jumps to the ground to embrace Jesus. Everyone is astonished. It's simply unbelievable. Murmuring among themselves, they said, "Can you believe it? Jesus is going home with a man who is a sinner." Speaking in low voices, their disgust hung in the air. "How can a holy man associate with such low life?" they contend. In their minds, even Jesus became suspect.
But a miracle is happening. In the precious arms of Jesus, Zacchaeus becomes a new man. This sinner receives a new heart and a new and generous compassion for the poor. Vowing to make everything right with anyone he has cheated, he promises to restore it fourfold. Perhaps Mr. Z announced, "If in this crowd today is anyone I have cheated, please come by the office in the morning." Hearing Zacchaeus' intention to repair any injustice of his making, Jesus declares, "Today salvation has come to this house." Love of God and neighbor is true conversion.
Jesus wants his love for souls to be our love for others as well. In this love is power; power to bring God's presence everywhere. We make known Jesus Christ in our words and our actions. As Peter once caught fish for a living, Jesus revealed to him he would soon become a fisher of men. This common phrase describes the work and the necessity of the Church in the immense sea of humanity. Jesus said before his Ascension, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And teach them to observe all that I have commanded you." Baptism brings us into the Church, the Body of Christ, and in the Church we hear the teachings of Christ.
Often the Church is referred to as Mother Church. It is in her arms the lost, the lonely, and the least receive comfort and salvation. In her we hear the words of absolution; she says to us, "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more. Make things right between you and your neighbor." She assists us to grow in grace; from her we learn Christ. And at her table we feast on him who is forever the lover of our soul.