November 1, 2013

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Wisdom provides this weekend’s first reading. An essential component in ancient Hebrew belief—and contemporary Jewish thought as well—is that God is the Creator of all, and the author of all life. For this reason, traditional Jews have great respect for natural life and for the processes of nature.

For ancient Jews, wisdom was written in a world highly influenced by Greek philosophy. Enveloping Greek philosophy was Greek mythology, which saw gods and goddesses as beings, albeit powerful, within nature. They had control over nature, and they could exercise their control in ways not necessarily kind to humanity.

Furthermore, in Greek thinking, humans could use or misuse nature and the things of nature. Wisdom called pious Jews living among Greeks to remember their own outlook on natural life. Honor nature as a creation by God.

For the second reading, the Church gives us a passage from St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians.

While the nature within which humans live while on Earth is marvelous, and is God’s loving gift, it is not the end of all. The greatest of God’s gift to us is in Jesus. The Lord became human as are we in the mystery that theologians call the Incarnation. Through the Incarnation, through the redemption accomplished by Jesus on Calvary and in the Resurrection, and by accepting God’s gift of faith, we gain the supreme result of the gift of Jesus. We gain life eternal with God.

Paul constantly summoned Christians, such as the faithful Thessalonians, in his letters to realize the wonder and greatness of God’s gift of Jesus.

Quite realistically, and in this reading in particular, Paul reminds believers that the path through earthly life is rough and crooked and beset with dangers and alluring detours. We must be resolute in our determination to be with God.

For its last reading, the Church gives us a selection from St. Luke’s Gospel. The Lord is on the way to Jericho, an ancient city not far from the Dead Sea, mentioned in several dramatic Old Testament passages. Jericho is a city seated at the foot of the great Judean mountains, a virtual oasis in a stark and lifeless terrain. So it was a place of security in the otherwise forbidding Jordan River valley and Judaean wilderness.

In truth, however, Jericho offered no enduring security.

Zacchaeus was wealthy, but Luke’s Gospel sees wealth as a burden. The poor are closer to God. Why? They are unencumbered. They are free.

Additionally, Zacchaeus was a tax collector, a disgusting occupation among the Jews. Nevertheless, Jesus, the Lord of life, freed Zacchaeus from the heavy burden of his sin and gave him genuine security.

Climbing the tree on the part of Zacchaeus teaches us two important lessons. Despite all his wealth, he was subject to the simple obstacles confronting everyone. He could not see through or over others. Zacchaeus desperately wanted to see him, realizing that wealth offered him no lasting satisfaction.

Reflection

In just a few weeks, the Church will close its liturgical year. On the weekend following, it will lead us into a new year of worship and reflection. But before the new year, it will call us to close this present year in a mood profoundly hopeful and thankful.

Hopefully, in Jesus, we have found what Zaccheus sought. Life and security are in Jesus. When we have found Jesus, we have found hope, and we give thanks, because we are one with God, in Jesus. The key to finding Jesus is in giving ourselves to him, without compromise, without pause. Jesus must be our king, our teacher, our Good Shepherd, our everything.

This weekend’s readings point us toward the Feast of Christ the King, the great celebration closing this year. †

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