Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Today salvation has come to this house

Thirty First Ordinary Sunday Year C

Many of us feel very small – we feel that we are sinners and that we are unworthy of God’s love or attention. And so we continue to live our lives as if God does not exist. We know God exist, but he only comes out on Sunday. Throughout the whole week, we have to work and do things all by ourselves as if God isn’t there to help us. We try to acquire riches and make ourselves feel important to compensate for our low self-esteem. This was the life of Zaccheus in today’s gospel before he met Jesus. He was a tax-collector, an officer of the Roman government and thus seen as an enemy and a sinner to all Jews. Zaccheus must have really felt all alone, but to him, his wealth and his power gave him some consolation. The gospel describes him as a short man. He could have been physically short but quite likely he felt small too in terms of how he saw himself or how he thought others saw him.

Zaccheus climbed the sycamore tree to have a better look at Jesus. By climbing the tree, he thought that he could raise himself to a position that was higher than the others. We also do that sometimes. Because, we feel insecure, we try to boast or make fun of others in order to make ourselves bigger than we truly are. But like Zaccheus, this only alienates us from others. People begin to avoid us because no one likes a braggart.

Although everyone seems to ignore Zaccheus, Jesus notices him. Jesus picks him out from the crowd and invites him to come down from the tree. Jesus reintroduces him to the community. We are created as social beings. As Christians, we must never forget our communal identity – Jesus wants us to live with each in love and peace and not as selfish and self-centered individuals. The love of Christ brings about the conversion of Zaccheus. For the first time in his life, someone takes notice of Zaccheus not because of his position or because of his wealth, but because of pure love and compassion.

This is the good news that we hear every Sunday. God loves us. Jesus loves us not because of our wealth, or our achievements, or our holiness or status in society. Jesus loves us for who we are. Jesus recognizes our goodness and our beauty even when we are unable to see it within ourselves. In the first reading, we have heard of how God loves all that exists, and holds nothing that he has made in abhorrence. For as the writer writes, if God had hated anything, He would not have formed it. God does not make rubbish. God doesn’t make mistakes.

Some of us may be ashamed of bad things that we have done in life and some have even grown to hate themselves. It is true that we are sinners. It is true that we have made many mistakes in life and we continue to make mistakes. It is true that we are not worthy to receive God’s compassion. But God loves us nevertheless. That is the love and compassion of God who is prepared to send his only Son to die for us while we were still sinners. That is our true value in the eyes of God. If we can come to recognize this – that we are loved by God and that nothing we do, no mistakes that we make, no sin that we commit, is going to change the love of God for us – then we will truly be able to experience the salvation of God. God does not withhold salvation from us. It is we who withhold salvation from ourselves by failing to recognize God’s love for us. Only when we come to believe that we are loved by God in a personal way, will conversion take place.

Today, during this Mass, we hear the voice of Jesus speaking to each of us personally: “Today salvation has come to this house … for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.”

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