Sunday, 3 November 2019 : Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we are all being reminded of just how loving, compassionate, merciful and wonderful our God is in all of His ways, in how He has been treating us all these while, in His great and enduring patience with us that even after all that we have done to make Him angry at our stubbornness and wickedness, He still wants to forgive us and to be reconciled with us.

In our first reading today taken from the Book of Wisdom, we heard of God’s omnipotence, as He is All-Powerful and is in control of everything in this world, even to the minutest and smallest details. And this is highlighted because no matter how well we may try to hide our sins and shortcomings, our mistakes and faults before God, we will never be successful. He knows us all in and out, the very deepest parts of our beings and our innermost secrets.

And yet despite knowing our faults and shortcomings, our filthy state of sin and our despicable attitude, God’s love for each and every one of us is still greater even compared to all of those. That is why He was able to forgive us and embrace us despite our many sins and our many faults. He wants us to be forgiven so that we may be reunited to Him and will not be lost to Him forever. If He wants us destroyed, He could have easily done that and yet He did not.

On the contrary He did everything to reach out to us and to embrace us with love. That was the essence of our Gospel passage today in which the Lord Jesus encountered Zaccheus the tax collector. In that occasion, Zaccheus, who was a renowned tax collector in the community wanted very badly to see the Lord, and even though he was short in body and posture, he tried his best to see the Lord by climbing up the sycamore tree.

Zaccheus loved the Lord very much, as we can clearly see from the way he tried his best to seek the Lord. And as I said earlier on, God knows everything about us, and He noticed Zaccheus all the same, putting His attention and focus on him despite the enormous crowds all around Him. He called Zaccheus to His presence and made it clear that He wanted to go to his house and to be a guest over there.

Very quickly, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law frowned and condemned the actions of Jesus, by saying how could He had entertained to go to the house of a sinner. And this must be understood in the context of how the tax collectors were resented and even despised, being prejudiced against just because of their profession in collecting taxes on behalf of the Romans who were resented, and they were therefore resented and hated as well.

But they failed to see how Zaccheus was a sinner just as they too were sinners. They have unjustly looked down on him based on their own prejudices and biases, and causing them to be blinded against their own shortcomings and faults. Zaccheus had however, something that is greater than all of them, the Pharisees and the rest of the people who had judged him unfairly, had in them.

He had faith in the Lord, faith that allowed him to use all his might to climb up the sycamore tree, believing that He is the One Who can save his soul from damnation. He has faith and hope in God, hope that he will be forgiven from his faults and sins, which he was certainly aware of, because of the constant prejudices and biases that were constantly deployed against him and his fellow tax collectors.

And he loved God, or else he would not even have made the effort to see Him. To prove his love for the Lord, he even made the very public announcement before all those who were gathered that he would right all the wrongs that he had committed as a tax collector, willingly parting even with his money and possessions when he said that he would repay all those whom he had once cheated four times as much.

When God saw all of that in Zaccheus, He saw a lost sheep that has finally come back to its Shepherd, and therefore praised him as a true son of Abraham who deserved salvation as much as everyone else. He was rebuking those Pharisees and all those who looked down on Zaccheus as a sinner while they themselves were even worse sinners because they refused to admit that they had sinned, unlike Zaccheus who admitted everything publicly before the Lord and showed his love for Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend some time to reflect on all that we have heard through the Scripture passages today. Let us all look in ourselves and find that Zaccheus that we should have, and whom we should indeed emulate. Are we in love with God so much that we are willing to seek the Lord just like how Zaccheus had done his best to seek the Lord with all of his might? Are we able to follow the Lord with all of our strength as we should have?

St. Paul in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Thessalonica in our second reading today then reassured us all that again, God’s love will make everything possible for us if we allow His love to enter into us and transform us, allowing Him to strengthen us and to give us that encouragement that we will be able to follow Him with faith and commitment regardless of the challenges and difficulties that we may have to face in being His faithful disciples.

We must be strong and we must stay faithful and keep hope in God’s enduring and ever great love for each and every one of us. For the devil is always devious with his many tricks and ways to try to prevent us from reaching out to God, by whatever means necessary. He may try to convince us that we are so sinful and despicable that we do not deserve to be saved. And that was exactly what the Pharisees did, as Satan spoke through them to try and prevent Zaccheus from being saved.

But God brushed off the devil and embraced that sinner who had returned home with such great love for his Master. This is why we too must have faith in God’s love and know that there is no sin too great for God to forgive, as long as we desire with all of our hearts to be forgiven and sincerely repent from all those sins and turn away from them. Zaccheus did that, and made a public profession of faith and love before all the people. If he could do it, then why can’t we do the same?

Then, the devil may also try to disturb us by trying to tempt us with many worldly pleasures and distractions by which he wants us to succumb to those temptations and as a result becoming more and more distant from God. If we allow these temptations to overcome us through our desires, we will end up falling deeper and deeper into sin, and from there eventually into eternal darkness unless we proactively resist the temptations.

Are we able to follow in the footsteps of Zaccheus who willingly wanted to atone for his past sins even if that meant that he would lose part of his money and possessions? Are we able to detach ourselves from the temptations of this world so as to become more committed and dedicated to God, that we may be more willing and capable of seeking God’s presence in our lives? We are all called to follow the example of Zaccheus, in putting God above everything else and love Him with all of our hearts from now on.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He bless us and empower us all from now on that we may be able to live our lives with faith. May He strengthen us all to live virtuously and focusing our attention on Him in every moments of our lives from now on. Let us all embrace the generous love of God, His mercy and compassion through which He wanted to heal us all from our sins and afflictions. May God bless us all, in our every good endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

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