in Ordinary Time
A Homily - Cycle C - 2012-2013
by Rev. Luke Dundon
First Reading - Wisdom 11:22-12:2
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
Second Reading - 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
Gospel - Luke 19:1-10
Written to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner." But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."
So, true story – a few weeks ago, an Italian was working in his Italian office. He was minding his own business (literally!), when the phone rang. His secretary picked it up, spoke on the phone, then called him in his office – uh, sir? Yes, what is it? Um, sir, you’ll never believe who’s on the phone. Well, who is it? Um . . . it’s the Pope. Oh! (This man was an atheist). He picks up the receiver, hand trembling – hello? Hello! Is this Eugenio? Yes it is . . . is this the Pope? OF course it is, Eugenio! You wrote me a letter, wanting to talk with me. I’d like to talk with YOU! Uh, ok . . . So Eugenio, next Monday and Wednesday are busy, but can you come at Tuesday at 3pm? I know it’s a bad time, but it’s the only time I have. Sure, Holy Father, I will see you there! Great! Just let the Swiss Guard know that you have an appt with me. See you then! . . . and thus began an amazing conversation between an atheist and the Pope. A conversation that wasn’t aimed by Pope Francis for conversion of the atheist, but simply to enjoy the time together and get to know one another. The Pope said that he looked forward to seeing this man again. While Eugenio might not have left a converted Catholic, word on the street is that it’s had an impact on him that will last for all time . . .
But what’s really cool about this meeting, is that the Pope personally called up an ATHEIST and wanted to spend an afternoon together, with NO specific plans to convert him or even prove God’s existence to Him – simply to enjoy the opportunity of getting to know this man. Jesus looked up in the sycamore tree and saw a TAX COLLECTOR, a man hated by his own countrymen, and said – Zacchaeus, you need to stop stealing from the people! No, that’s not what he said. He said, Zacchaeus, you need to be a more faithful Jew! No, he didn’t say that either. Jesus looked up and said, Zaccaeus, I need to dine at your house tonight!
And this tax collector didn’t waste the opportunity . . . by the end of dinner, he agrees to pay back fourfold everything he stole, giving half of his funds to the poor . . . because Jesus asked for it? Not at all . . . all Jesus did was announce that He wanted to dine with Zacchaeus. This short-in-stature tax collector shows one of the greatest conversions stories in the Bible – and he does so, NOT because Jesus says, “Change your ways, ”but rather because Jesus reminds Him that He matters . . . He’s a tax collector, but God cares about Him . . . in fact, God wants to DINE with him. . .
Eugenio the Italian atheist became a friend of the Pope a few weeks ago, and a tax collector became a friend of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago . . . NOT ONE mention by the Pope or by Jesus that these individuals needed to change . . . but change has happened on its own!!! Both individuals saw something irresistible, something beautiful, something worth responding to . . . and the result is conversion, turning the heart away from what is selfish or prideful or ego-driven, away from sadness or fear or pain, and turning the heart TOWARD what is holy, and good, and, well, INTERESTED in who I AM as a human being! Why did Zacchaeus respond so quickly? Why did the ATHEISTS’s hands shake as he spoke to the pope on the phone? When our Lord Jesus Christ looks us in the eye, we don’t just see the God of the universe reigning over us. We see infinite love, we see a face which has endured death, we see something irresistible – regardless of what we’ve done or how well we’ve done it, we see the God who is CAPTIVATED by who we are. And, REGARDLESS of what we’ve done or how well we’ve done it, He wants to be a part of our lives, TODAY. How many other people have treated us like this? The encounter will be amazing, the change will be beautiful, if we allow ourselves to look back, and see the divine carpenter, who is asking us BY NAME, “Can I spend time with you?” Please have dinner with Him, please have a conversation with Him, please “hang out” with Him . . . it will have an impact that will last for all time . . .