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28 October 2010

31st Sunday in Ordinary TIme C 2010

Click here for Audio Homily
Did you ever see that old TV show “Leave it to Beaver.” In one episode, the school teacher was asking the boys and girls what they wanted to do when they grew up.  One boy wanted to be President.  One boy wanted to be a monster like he saw on TV and in the movies.  Then the teacher asked a girl what she wanted to do when she grew up.  Given the fact that the show was filmed in the 1950’s, I wondered what her answer was going to be.  She said that she wanted to be a nurse so that she could bring healing and care to all humanity, then she added “and marry a rich doctor.”  The reason why people laugh is that back then people knew that that was not the reason for marriage.  Today however we have reality television shows geared specifically to marrying someone because they are a millionaire.  What has happened to our society?  Good humor comes from an unexpected turn of events or a play on words.  Humor that comes from degrading a person’s human dignity is really not funny.  I remember some one told me a joke and I did not laugh.  They asked if I had gotten the joke.  While I understood the joke, it had racist overtones and I did not want to give support to such a denial of human dignity.  Jesus is supporting human dignity in today’s Gospel.  Here is a man, Zacchaeus, that everybody thought he was no good.  As a tax collector, Zacchaeus was not liked, both because he collaborated with the Romans and often cheated the people from whom he collected taxes.  Not only that, Zacchaeus was short and the people would not let him through to see Jesus.  So Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree. There was basic goodness in this man.  Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom tells us, “For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.”  Zacchaeus did not simply want to see Jesus out of curiosity.  He felt a yearning for Jesus.  He did not search for a celebrity but a savior.  While the adoring crowds craved attention from Jesus, little Zacchaeus gazed humbly on Jesus from the branch of the sycamore tree.  Zacchaeus did not feel himself worthy to be near Jesus, he just wanted to see this holy man.  The crowd had already labeled Zacchaeus-- “a sinner”—they would not let him through.  The crowd may have made jokes at Zacchaeus’ expense – never letting him forget what he did to them and how short he was.  I was in a conversation with a group of people and made some point about Shakespeare being a good example of the origins of today’s problem of moral relativism.  I was disregarded with a statement like “Oh you can tell he was a college professor.”  How often was Zacchaeus teased about what he did or how short he was?  How many other times had Zacchaeus been forced to leave the crowd for being unwelcome.  It was Jesus who recognized in Zacchaeus, his desire to repent.  The crowd would not let Zacchaeus change.  They called him a sinner and tax collector.  Why would Jesus want to hang around him?  Yet Jesus called Zacchaeus out of his sinfulness.  Jesus saw the good in Zacchaeus and called him to share in the splendor of the truth of salvation.  It was to none of the other members in the crowd that Jesus offered the invitation to dine with him. It was only to the one who was ready to repent.  Only sinners need a savior.  Today’s Gospel ends with the words, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."  The Sacrament of Confession is very much like calling us out of that sycamore tree.  When we have made the decision to advance beyond the ignorance of the crowd, so that we can see Jesus; when we recall that God has made us in His image and likeness and that we are loved, we go looking for Jesus. And the Lord “overlooks people's sins that they may repent. For HE loves all things that are and loathes nothing that He has made; for what HE hated, HE would not have fashioned”  We need not accept other people’s opinion of us.  Eleanor Roosevelt said “No one can make you feel inferior, without your own consent.”  Please realize that no matter how much you are hurting inside because of something you may have done, the Lord Jesus loves you.  Do not listen to the name-calling and abuse of the crowds.  God loves you and the Lord Jesus can do for you what He did for Zacchaeus.  You just need to break away from the crowd and try to see Jesus.  The Lord will not be outdone in generosity.  Climb that tree and hear the Lord say to you, “come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house."

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