Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 3, 2013 Cycle C
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

One of the things I like most about Washington is the opportunity to visit so many museums—and they are all free! One of my favorite museums is the Air and Space Museum. I have gone there several times. Ever since my childhood, I have been fascinated by the greatness and beauty of the universe. In one of my visits to the museum, I watched an amazing movie about the Hubble Space Telescope. The film takes you on a voyage through the cosmos with three-dimensional images. The universe is so great and so harmonic! Scientists say that are at least 3,000 billion galaxies. The universe is so big and we are so small!

In today’s first reading, we find this extraordinary declaration: “Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.” Before the creative power of God, the cosmos is almost nothing: it has no weight and it is insignificant. The universe is great but infinitely greater is the one who created it.

The Book of Wisdom exalts the greatness of God as the creator of all things. Everything has its origin in God. He sustains all things with his love and everything belongs to him. The reading says something amazing: the greatest manifestation of God’s power is when he shows his pardon and mercy: “… you have mercy on all, because you can do all things ....”

The first reading ends with these words: “Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord.”

Today’s Gospel tells us the story of a man who encountered the mercy of God. Zacchaeus was seeking to see who Jesus was. Zacchaeus was not a good man. He was the chief tax collector.  He was a man full of limitations. He was short of stature and many obstacles were preventing him from seeing the master. Nevertheless, he had a great desire in his heart. He longed to see Jesus passing.

The man who was seeking found the one who had come to seek and to save what was lost. The chief tax collector was called by name: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” At the moment when Zacchaeus and Jesus gazed at each other, what happened was greater than the creation of 3,000 billion galaxies!

Saint Augustine says in one of his sermons: “He was seen, and he saw.” The chief tax collector was completely surprised and his heart was filled with joy. His eyes met the gaze of his creator. He met the mercy that sustains the universe. In this encounter with Christ, Zacchaeus was recreated. He experienced what Paul says in the second reading: “… that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose.” In Jesus’ gaze, he found the source of a force that would totally transform his life. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said: “Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is.”

For all of us, the experience of the encounter with Christ is our most urgent need. What is the Church? The Church is like the sycamore tree in the reading, a place that allows the encounter between the Creator and his creatures. Why are we here this morning? It is because we have encountered Him. The encounter with Christ, then the memory of this encounter and its continual renewal are in synthesis with what Christian life means.

We only encounter Christ, we only renew our encounter with him, if we, like Zacchaeus, seek to see Jesus. Without this longing and seeking, it is not possible to receive the grace that transforms and renews our lives.

Let us pray for Our Lord to show us his infinite mercy. May the joy of our personal encounter with Christ always create us anew.

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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