First Reading: Wisdom 11:22-12:2 Responsorial: Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14 Second Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 Gospel Passage: Luke 19:1-10
As Christians, we hope that a life of faith brings us to eternal life in God’s kingdom. As important as that future may be, our relationship with God is as much about the here and now as it is about eternal salvation. The invitation to live in relationship with the Lord is an invitation to healing, restoration, and the fullness of our human destiny in this life as well as the next.
In these last weeks of Ordinary Time, the liturgy begins to raise the question of the last things. The imagery and teachings speak of the end times and the urgent need for response to the Lord. But even as the readings look to the next world, they instruct us about life in this world.
The first reading speaks about God’s perspective on the world. It acknowledges the smallness of creation before the Creator, but attests to the loving care of the Creator. This world, limited and flawed as it may be, is loved by God and finds its greatness in that love. In effect, the Book of Wisdom gives witness to the reality of grace – God loves His creation and that love sustains, ennobles, and transforms creation. As part of creation, the human person likewise may hope in the love of God. And to be aware of that loving grace is to change perspective, to acknowledge our need for God. That truth transforms – the one who knows and contemplates such love must be changed by its power. How fitting that the Psalm that expresses our response in the liturgy is filled with praise of the grace and mercy of God.
The Second Letter to the Thessalonians addresses those who might be disturbed about the return of the Lord. It counsels steady faith and the practical living in the concrete reality of this world rather than excitability about the next. In addition, it speaks of the power of grace and suggests another aspect of God’s plan for our reflection. The letter makes the extraordinary claim that the Christian believer can do more than observe the teachings of Jesus, he or she may live in such a way as to reflect the glory of the Lord. It does not propose that believers do such on their own – it is God that makes them worthy. But it does offer an exalted vocation related to Paul’s notion of the Body of Christ. Believers can make the Lord Jesus present in the created world even as He reigns in heaven. That focus is more than enough to occupy the heart, mind, and soul of every believer until such time as the Lord returns.
The passage from Luke concerns the memorable encounter between Jesus and the vertically challenged tax collector, Zacchaeus. In his enthusiastic desire to get closer to the Lord, Zacchaeus climbs the tree to see over the crowd. His openness is admirable, but he has failed to understand that authentic relationship with Jesus comes by invitation, not exertion. And so Jesus must command him to come down from the tree. Even so, the Lord announces that He will visit Zacchaeus’s house. Immediately, the prospect of such a visitation begins to work changes in the man. The sinner is the child of Abraham, the corrupt man now generous, the short man looms large in goodness and zeal for God.
As we well know, Christian faith does not propose this life as a waiting room for the next. It does challenge us to bring the perspective of God’s kingdom to our present living in order to recognize - as the Book of Wisdom teaches – that God’s overflowing grace and love are everything for us. The God Who has loved us from before the beginning of time has reached out to us. He asks more than our assent to His teaching, He invites us to a relationship that alters us and our destiny for all time. In the gift of His Son, He reveals the fullness of our human calling. Long before we take up citizenship in heaven we can share in the things of heaven and communicate those gifts to others.
Jesus has invited us to faith in His Holy Name. This Sunday, the Lord Jesus invites us to dine in His house. Will we accept the invitation? Will we grumble or rejoice? Will we go through the motions or dare His friendship? Will we leave as we arrived or will we allow Him to lift us to a life lived in grace, by grace, and for grace? Just be warned, accepting the invitation to relationship with the Lord will change you in this world and the next!