Homily Thirty-first Sunday Year C The gaze of mercy

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Homily: Thirty-first Sunday Year C
Reading 1: We acknowledge God’s magnificence and his otherness and our dependency upon him. The truth is that in the presence of God we are nothing. We are like a drop of dew that soon evaporates. But God is merciful to us, temporarily overlooking our sins and giving us a chance to repent.

How often and to what depth have we experienced this endless mercy of God? How often have we repented because of the grace of mercy? Why does God treat us with mercy when we are sinners? Because of who he is: God is love and he created us in love, sustains us in love and shares his life with us in love.

God hates nothing he created. But Sin he did not create and what sin does to us he did not create. He abhors sin and all it does to us. Yet, in spite of our sinfulness he sustains us because he loves us, having placed his imperishable spirit within us. With his grace he calls us back to repentance. He does not seek the death of the sinner but that he may repent and live forever with him in glory.

What is our response? Is it praise and thanksgiving? Or is it focus on our desires to be who we are not or to do what pleases us no matter what?

Gospel: Here is one of those encounters with Jesus that changes a person’s life. Zacchaeus is a tax collector. As such he is hated by the people because he serves the Roman Empire by collecting taxes for the Romans and adding a generous fee for himself.

Zacchaeus must have heard of Jesus. Maybe he heard that many tax collectors and sinners are following him. Thus, he was curious to see this person and maybe more than curious, maybe hungry for something more in his own life. Because he was short and because he knew the animosity of the people towards him, he climb a tree for a better vantage point.

Unbeknown to Zacchaeus, the Spirit had informed Jesus that there was someone whom he is to minister to on his journey. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, his gaze of mercy ministered to the tax collector. The gaze of Jesus goes beyond sin and prejudice. He sees the person with the eyes of God, which does not stop with sin, but sees the potential of a grace-filled life for the person. In this gaze Jesus helped Zacchaeus to see his true worth.

Jesus’ interaction with the tax collector angered the people. How could Jesus even think of entering the house of a public sinner! They saw his sins but refused to see their own sins.

Zacchaeus’s conversion was swift. He recognized and admited that he had taken advantage of people. He repented of this publicly. He promised to give restitution. Mercy, repentance, restitution lead to the grace of salvation. Are we Zacchaeus or are we among the crowd? Are we seeking something more authentic even though we do not know it? Is Jesus that more?

Reading 2: Paul at this point in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians addresses the question of the second coming of Jesus in glory. He begins by focusing on what is more important or the preparation for the second coming of the Lord. He prays that the Christians grow in holiness, fulfilling their call from God. In this way Jesus will be glorified in them and they in him.

Then he reminds them that Jesus will come again in glory but we do not know the day or hour. Unfortunately, someone had been upsetting the people by saying it was very soon. As a result, people stop working and just waited. Paul confronts this false teaching by saying the best way to prepare is to grow in holiness day by day, by fulfilling one’s call to live a life of worthiness, while continue to live a normal life.  In this way, whenever the Lord comes, he will find them in relationship to him.

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