Sunday, October 23, 2016

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time - October 30, 2016

First Reading Commentary
The opening verse describes the unfathomable immensity of Almighty God.  Compared to Him, the unknown vastness of the universe is like a grain or drop of morning dew.  This verse actually doesn't do Him justice but there are no words in any language, nor is there any reachable level of human thought to properly define the boundlessness of our Creator.  Since we are incapable of visiting this level of spirituality, the rest of the Reading is all the more incredible - but true.  He loves all things, spares all things; He is a lover of all souls, and therefore rebukes and warns us of our sins.  Why would this incomprehensible Being whose power is indescribable care one iota about us?  Why does He want to share in our joys and feel our pains?  Why does He listen to our prayers?  Why does He desire an intimate, deep, personal relationship with each and every one of us?  These are questions that even the most gifted theologians and philosophers cannot finitely answer; but then again we are reflecting on the infinite Most High.  The proof of the pudding, though, is when He made His uncontainable Self containable in the womb of a Virgin; when He walked among us, taught us, healed us of our infirmities, suffered and died for us; rose from the dead, ascended into heaven and opened the eternal gates in order to fulfill His longing and our longing to spend eternity together.  And for as long as we remain in this valley of tears, He gives us a taste of heaven by leaving us a memorial of His Love - His precious Body and Blood.  If we were capable of comprehending all of this, our hearts would explode.
Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul's words here give you the sense that this prayer of his extends far beyond the Thessalonians.  Can you hear him in heaven praying for us using these very same words? 
There's a story about Saint Francis of Assisi, in which the authenticity of it has been debated, but makes a point regardless.  The story goes that he asked one of his brother Friars to accompany him into town to preach.  When they arrived in town, they quietly walked all through the town and then Saint Francis said to his brother Friar, "We're finished, let's go back."  His brother Friar said to him, "I thought you said we were going to preach."  And Saint Francis replied, "We just did."  Faith in action speaks louder than shouting from the highest mountaintops and manifests itself in many ways. 
How do others perceive us?  Even without mentioning our Lord, do we conduct ourselves in such a way that others would be able to deduce that we are Christians?  The joy that flows from a strong faith reveals itself naturally because of God's grace and could leave the most indifferent of souls asking themselves, "What do they have that I don't have?"  Faith is not a part time job to earn extra credit in heaven.  True faith envelops us and dictates our way of life and is not easily alarmed or shaken.
Gospel Commentary
As devout Christians we are well-represented by Zacchaeus.  He was a little man.  In the grand scheme of things, how often do we consider ourselves to be insignificant?  Part of this may be credited to some level of humility but there's always that inner self-demoralizing voice that asks, "How is it possible that I matter to God?"  The answer is simple but not necessarily understandable: We are sinners which bewilderingly qualifies us as recipients of Christ's love.  It is in our inner house that He dwells so that He may stay with us always.  Through prayer and silence we may visit that inner house to be with our Lord where that self-demoralizing voice is overpowered by the Voice that says: "Salvation has come to this house." 
As qualifiers of salvation, we are indeed descendants of Abraham.  While Jesus may never require us to literally give up half of our possessions, He does ask for detachment from them. 
"The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."  For Christians this is a most comforting verse because the word "was" is past tense.  In salvation history there was a time when we were among the lost, but through Baptism and by surrendering our lives to Christ's care and accepting His gift of salvation we can now joyfully look ahead without ever having to look back.  But the push forward should be an ongoing process of spiritual growth.