Homily for 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C

A Life Changing Encounter With Jesus Coming Our Way Today!

Readings: (1st: Wis 11, 22-12, 2; Ps: 144, 1-2. 11-14; 2nd: 2Thes 1, 11-2, 2; Gos: Lk 19, 1-10)

            This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

With just three more Sundays to go in this liturgical year, today the 31st Sunday of ordinary time, year C, the Church reminds us that to the Lord and our God, the whole world is like a grain of dust. That is to say, tiny compared to his greatness. In spite of this, He loves all that exists and comes to dwell with us sinners. No matter how weak, sinful, or stubborn we are, the fact remains that Jesus our Lord is in our midst and is ever ready to ensure and secure our salvation just as he said to Zacchaeus today: “Today salvation has come to this house…” Because he is in our midst, Jesus keeps coming to us every day in other to seek us out. However, he says to us: “I stand at the door of your heart knocking, if you open I will come in and eat and dine with you” (Rev 3, 20).

In today’s first reading, the book of Wisdom eulogizes the mercy of God which extends to all his creatures irrespective of their state and status. Hence, in spite of our weaknesses and sins, God continues to be merciful as Wisdom puts it: “Yet you are merciful to all because you can do all things and over look men’s sins so that they can repent”. In order words, our merciful God gives us the opportunity to retrace our steps. This explains the reason he does not punish sinners immediately. This is the nature of God’s mercy! As a father who would not despise his own child, so will God not despise his creatures because he values each one of us. Even when we offend him, Wisdom says: “Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend, and you admonish and remind them how they have sinned…” In the second reading, Paul prays for us to persevere in good deed and faith in Christ. He equally encourages us to continue without being carried away by false rumours of the Lord’s imminent coming. In order words, in as much as the Lord will come to be in our midst in fulfillment of his promise to us, we must go ahead living our lives. We must not just sit down with our arms “akimbo” Rather, we have to get ourselves busy with good deeds so that when he eventually comes, he will meet us in the right position.

While reflecting on the gospel of today, the song “Jesus is coming this way, this way, he is coming this way today” continued ringing bell in my heart and head. Every day Jesus keeps coming to us through various means. He comes our way through our neighbours, through the sacraments, through the whole of creation. The looming and important question is: Do we see him, do we even know that he comes our way, and above all how much effort do we make to have a glimpse of him, or a life changing encounter with him as Zacchaeus did? The story of Zacchaeus is a true indication that Jesus Christ the Son made Man comes to seek out and save not only the righteous but also those that are lost. Irrespective of the human obstacles that made it extremely difficult for Zacchaeus to see Jesus who was passing his way, his dexterity doggedness and courage paid off. Unlike most of us Christians, he refused to be limited by the crowd. He refused to accept his diminished height as a disadvantage. In life, there are so many things preventing us from a holistic encounter with Jesus Christ, things that dwarf our mentality, and things that hinder our success in life. What efforts do we make to overcome these? If we make frantic efforts as Zacchaeus did to catch a glimpse of Jesus, He himself will also see us. Therefore we must rise above all obstacles that prevent this necessary divine encounter. Paul advised Timothy thus: “Do not to allow any one look down on you because you are young” (I Tim 4, 12). Likewise, we must not allow any weakness or short coming of life ware us down or prevent us from getting where we want to get to. The physical shortness of our being does not matter. Rather, if we remain spiritually tall we shall overcome all physical obstacles of life. We must be positively desperate like Zacchaeus, increase our heights, and occupy our space firmly, physically, and spiritually. This is only possible by doubling our efforts towards reaching out to Jesus who comes our way every day of our life. Like the woman with issue of blood, we must think, “if only I can touch the helm of his garment I shall be healed”, we must move into action, and finally, we must believe that it will work for us (Luke 8, 43-48). This is the simple principle of life that Zacchaeus employed and it worked for him. An advice goes thus: “Do not hide that sickness or that sickness will hide you forever!” We must expose ourselves to Jesus so that He could see us and come quickly to our aid. My friend, timor omnis abesto (do away with all fears)!

Humility helps us to accept who we are and our short comings. However, it does not prevent us from trying to overcome our shortcomings. Instead, it spurs us to search for other godly means through which we can achieve success in life in spite of all the odds against us. Zacchaeus’ humility is worth emulating. He acknowledged the fact that he was too short, in fact, dwarfed by the crowd and so, could not contend with them for space. He did not go causing trouble or picking quarrel with anybody for blocking him like most of us would do even on Sunday’s communion line. He did not push anybody down in order to have his way. No! Rather, he decided to explore other avenues at his disposal. As difficult as it was, he decided to climb a thorny sycamore tree just to get what he wanted because he knew its value and how much it would benefit him. My dear, there are so many other options in life other than that one that has failed you and made your life miserable. It might be “that thorny sycamore tree” starring you in the face: It could be that rough road, that unpleasant job, that ugly woman/man that you detest so much, and it could be that bitter enemy or that teacher or student you never liked his/her face. Try them, and you may be surprise they will take you to the apex of your success in life. Only humility will help us bend down and see other options available to us in life without given up. So let us obey this adage which says: “Ora et labora, deus adest sine mora” (Work and pray; God will aid you without delay)!

Finally we must also avoid, and ignore distractions and detractors to our success. These come in form of complains from those around us as the crowd did to Zacchaeus: “They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house…” Sympathizers and gossips must play their roles in our lives but we must not cave in because of their negative comments, complaints, and castigations. Instead, we must stand our ground as Zacchaeus did, remain poised and unperturbed in our quest to achieved the life changing divine encounter we are looking for. Also, it is important to note that an encounter with Jesus will not leave us the same. It must cost us something! It must make us shade some weight and drop some heavy burdens that prevent us from having smooth movement along the journey of life. Therefore, like Zacchaeus, we must reassure the Lord of our willingness to turn a new leaf in life and say: “…If I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount…!” If we do this sincerely from our heart, then Jesus Christ in turn will say to us: “Today salvation has come to this house…!”

Peace be with you all!!                                                             

Maranatha!!!

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