Weekly Homily from Fr Jim Hogan, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 30, 2016

Wisdom 11:22—12:2 • 2 Thessalonians 1:11—2:2 • Luke 19:1-10•

Weekly Scripture Readings: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 

In nine days we will elect a new President.  The issues facing our nation are many and extremely complex.  As Catholics committed to our faith, it is unbecoming for us to cast our votes based on ideological bias, party loyalty, or perceived economic advantage.  So because of our faith our judgments in the ballot booth, as in all things, are shaped primarily by gospel values. The challenge is to discern which candidate’s positions come closest to matching the gospel.

Only Luke tells the story of Zacchaeus.  It appears at the end of his multi-chapter narrative
describing the journey of Jesus and his companions from Galilee to Jerusalem.  Today, Luke tells us that as they pass through Jericho they encounter Zacchaeus.

He describes Zacchaeus as “a chief tax collector,” and “a wealthy man.”  Tax collectors were recruited from the Jewish community because it was less risky for the Roman occupiers to have locals collect the taxes.  In a city like Jericho a tax collector could accumulate a lot of personal wealth.  That would be especially true of the “chief tax collector.

Luke also tells us that Zacchaeus was “short in stature.”  That is why he ended up in the tree!!  He wanted to see and hear Jesus.  I think his stature is the key to the good news in this tale.

Perhaps because of his physical stature Zacchaeus always felt insecure, less than others.  It is widely recognized that teasing someone about some physical characteristic can create deep feelings of insecurity.  We all know men, who like Zacchaeus, feel the need to compensate for being “short” – physically, intellectually and even spiritually.  Perhaps his psychological needs motivated Zacchaeus to accept the position of “chief tax-collector.”

In any case Zacchaeus is up in the tree.  The scene is ridiculous and probably embarrassing for him.  Here he is, this important guy, “the chief tax collector,” up in the tree.  He risks the embarassment because he wants to see Jesus.

Jesus knows the crowd has demonized Zacchaeus.  He calls him by name. “Zacchaeus come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  That simple gesture and invitation are far more significant then they may seem. Jesus saw past his occupation and past his social status.  By calling out to him in public, he acknowledges and announces that Zacchaeus is a human being, “a child of Abraham.”

Pay attention to this tale!  This is good news about that Gracious Mystery we name God. No one of us is too small to make a difference.  Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus eagerly and with enthusiasm.  He “stood up and said . . . Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone . . . I will pay back four times the amount.”

The point is that once he welcomes Christ into his life, being “short in stature” no longer matters to Zacchaeus.  He became more fully alive and more fully human.

In the eyes of that Gracious Mystery we name God, physical size is a non-issue; occupation is a non-issue; sexual orientation is a non-issue; marital status is a non-issue.  In the eyes of God there are no outsiders; no one is least; no one is greater; no one is insignificant. That Gracious Mystery we name God loves each and every one of us and calls us to come down out of the tree and embrace our own goodness.

Luke’s tale about the short, chief tax collector affirms all of us.  That Gracious Mystery we name God loves each and very one of us.  Listen to Luke’s tale as a story of your own truth and come down out of the tree.  Be a responsible Catholic. Vote in this election. Vote for the candidate whose positions, in your opinion, come closest to matching the gospel.

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