November 1, 2019

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.

The emphasis by Pope Francis upon the dignity of each person and upon the natural environment directly reflects this ancient belief.

Wisdom was written, however, in a world awash in Greek philosophy. Enveloping Greek philosophy was Greek mythology that saw gods and goddesses as powerful beings with distinctly human characteristics. These divinities were thought to have control over nature. They could also be very spiteful and hard-hearted, quarrelling among themselves.

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

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

Individual human dignity, and indeed nature itself, are God’s loving gifts. The greatest of God’s gifts to us, however, is Jesus. The Lord became human in the mystery that is traditionally called 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 are given life eternal with God.

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

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

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

Climbing a 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 Jesus, realizing that wealth offered him no lasting satisfaction. Zacchaeus made the effort to see Jesus.

Reflection

The Church will soon close its liturgical year. At the end of this month, 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 Zacchaeus sought. Life and peace 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 accepting him, without compromise, without pause.

As Son of God, Jesus is king over all, Creator, Good Shepherd, our everything.

This weekend’s reading points us toward the Solemnity of Christ the King, the great celebration closing this year. †

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