Preparing for Sunday anticipating this day.The Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalms 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
Second Thessalonians 1:11--2:2
There is a little phrase we use to describe someone getting caught in the act; we say, ďHe got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.Ē One time I literally had this happen.
I was in a small kitchen in a Jesuit house and I was leaning against the counter. Right behind me was a large cookie jar without a lid. So while carrying on a group discussion, I secretly edged my hand towards and into the waiting stock of delights. What I didnít know was that the jar was clear glass and everybody in the room was smilingly watching my digital exploring for the chocolate chips. They had a great communal laugh and I was more a delight to them than the cookies were to me.
In the First Reading for todayís liturgy, we hear a most comforting poem or reflection. The composer of the Book of wisdom proclaims with confidence that God the Creator loves all that was created, even sinners. All things are signs of Godís love and all things belong to God.
Little by little God invites those who fail to see Godís loving creativity, to open their eyes and be impressed. Repentance just might be a way of viewing the giftedness of all of creation so that letting go of selfishness or possessiveness becomes the thing to do. Nothing and no one person is outside Godís creative love and so Godís redemptive or healing or saving love is seen as a continuation of that universal creative love act. The Gospel has the wonderful story of a man whom Jesus found sitting up in a tree. Zachaeus was a rich tax collector for the dominating Roman government occupying Israel. He was rich and collecting taxes from his fellow Jews and providing quite well for himself. He was not well liked, not even a little bit.
He has climbed up into the tree, because he is short and wants to get a glimpse of The Prophet, but Jesus is the One Who sees him and in a sense has caught him with his hand in the cookie jar.
In the previous chapter of Lukeís Gospel, His listeners had asked Jesus about who could be saved. This question arose because a rich person wanted to follow Jesus, but went away sad when he heard that he had to let go of his possessions.
Zachaeus provides the answer. Jesus calls this fellow out of his hiding place and into the kingdom of Light. Jesus invites Himself to the house of Zachaeus and the encounter changes Zachaeusí view of himself. Instead of holding on to his riches, in contrast to the rich person of the previous chapter, he joyfully welcomes not only Jesus, but his own new view of himself. Who can be saved? The worst, the lost, the most unlikely according to Jesusí opponents, are those whom He has come to claim, save, and within whom to continue Godís creation.
Zachaeus has been met by Jesus and so as a result has met himself. Encounter precedes change. Most of the changes of our lives are a result of our having met somebody who helped us meet ourselves, our truth. Changes in behavior come from changes in seeing ourselves. The story immediately preceding the story of Zachaeus is about a person who is blind, receiving his sight. Physical sight becomes a hint for what faith really is. Seeing all of creation as a loved gift from God frees us from being blinded by creation as something to be possessed as belonging totally and only to us. Zachaeus receives his sight and so desires to live more of a sharing life than a hidingly small life.
God catches each of us with our hands in various jars containing various delights. Secrecy, hiding, and hoarding are indications that we want all the chocolate chips for ourselves. All things are from God and have Godís fingerprints on them first. All cookies are meant to be shared not possessed. As my brothers enjoyed my selfish searching and forgave me for my attempts, so much the more does God embrace us sinners. God knows our fears and how they blind us to the giftedness of all things. As with Zachaeus, Jesus is always inviting Himself into our personal houses to replace selfishness with selflessness. Sharing becomes a reflection that Jesus is at home and open for all visitors. When Jesus is at home with us, we are at home with ourselves. When we are open to His presence within us, then welcoming others and reverencing all of Godís creation as a grand cookie jar becomes our joyful way of living.
ďBut you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lovers of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!Ē
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