XXXI SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
wisdom 11:22-12:2; 2 thessalonians 1:11-2:2; luke 19:1-10
john powell, renowned author and professor at chicago’s loyola university, writes about tommy—a student in his theology of faith class. tommy, powell writes, was the «atheist in residence». at the end of the course, he asked: «do you think i’ll ever find GOD?» powell said: «no!» and then added: «tommy! i don’t think you’ll ever find him, but i am absolutely certain that he will find you!» tommy left powell’s class and life.
years later, tommy was diagnosed with terminal cancer. he returned to powell to tell him that GOD had found him: «one day i turned around and GOD was there. he didn’t come to me when i pleaded with him… apparently GOD does things in his own way and at his own hour. but he was there. he found me. he found me even after i stopped looking for him.»
tommy found GOD when he opened his heart to love his own father and the people to whom he was close. he discovered «that the surest way to find GOD is not to make him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love.»
the story of zaccheus is similar to tommy’s. zaccheus went in search of jesus the wonder worker… and GOD found him. rather, he allowed GOD to find him when he opened his heart to love the poor: «half of my possessions, LORD, i shall give to the poor» and to more than make restitution to those he had defrauded: «if i have extorted anything from anyone i shall repay it four times over.»
why does GOD wait till we allow ourselves to be found? we have a response in the first reading: «you have mercy on all… and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent. for you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made…»
why do we take so long to allow GOD to find us? perhaps because GOD challenges us to change. luke probably intends the story of zaccheus as a contrast to the story of the rich young man (18:18-23). both are rich and look for jesus. the young man has kept the commandments from his youth; zaccheus is a tax collector. the young man is saddened by jesus’ challenge to sell his possessions and follow him; zaccheus responds with joy and repentance to jesus’ invitation to stay at his house.
will i allow GOD to find me? will i change my life and open my heart to love?
may you and i do this… so that the LORD can say: «today salvation has come to this house»!