November 3, 2019 – Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

The book of Wisdom tells God:  “what you hated, you would not have fashioned, for you love all things that are”.  This love of God is seen in Jesus’ statement to Zacchaeus “come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house . . . for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost”.

Dearest sisters and brothers, our God always and in every moment cares for us, in spite of how sinful and imperfect we are.  Zacchaeus, as we know, was a wealthy tax collector who extorted and defrauded the poor.  He was very much loathed by all because of that.  In the gospel today, he received forgiveness after having made the extra effort of climbing the tree to see Jesus.  What lessons are there for us?

The first is the call for us to overcome all obstacles preventing us from encountering Jesus.  Zacchaeus knew that his short stature was an impediment to seeing the Lord.  He devised a means to overcome that.  Again, at the encounter with the Lord at his house, his ill-gotten wealth would be another impediment, but he got rid of it by making restitution to those he defrauded and giving half to charity.

Today, Zacchaeus’ situation mirrors ours.  Jesus loves and cares for us as he did for Zacchaeus and is calling us right now to embrace Him.  What are the obstacles preventing us from having a full relationship with him?  Can we honestly look inward to find them?  Zacchaeus’ efforts today happen in two levels:  the first was the physical effort he made to climb the tree.

In the same way, what are the physical obstacles preventing us from encountering Jesus?  Is it coming from our present relationships?  Is it coming from our places of work or occupation that is preventing us from having enough time for God?  Is it coming from our material achievements, wealth and riches, talents and gifts etc.?

At the second level, Zacchaeus also dealt with spiritual impediment.  He got rid of his greed, pride and ambition when he encountered Christ.  In our own case, what are those spiritual obstacles?  Are we greedy, prideful, ambitious, etc.?  Like Zacchaeus, are we ready now to go the extra-mile to get rid of these spiritual defects to right our relationship with God?  Can we take that bold leap to do away with whatever obstacle that is preventing us from having a full-blown relationship with Jesus?  Until we do, the joy of the Lord that Zacchaeus had today may not fully materialize in our lives.