Homily Thirty-First Sunday of Year C: Fr. Michael Udoekpo
· Wis 11:22–12:2
· Ps 145:1-2,8-9,10-11,13-14
· 2 Thes 1:11–2:2
· Luke 19:1-10
Everyone who believes in Him shall be saved
The Alleluia verse of today, “God so loved the world that he gave his only, Son, so that everyone who believes in him might be saved” (John 3:16) captures the central theme of today’s Bible lesson: namely, that our God is merciful God , a loving and forgiving God to everyone. Everyone here, reference the Jews in diaspora of today’s the 1st reading, book of Wisdom, as well as the Gentiles of the Thessalonians Community of Saint Paul, in the 2nd reading, or the likes of Zacchaeus, in today’s Gospel of Luke, and beyond. In other words, God cares, God loves, and God looks after each and every one of us, no matter what, and beyond all boundaries and cultures.
In history, this has been the nature of God (Exod 34:6-7); a merciful God, a theme that Pope Francis runs home with throughout his papacy. God is the ereke payim. He is steadfast in love, gracious and full of mercy and kindness. This theme is also rendered into music by the Psalmist today(Psalm 145). This merciful God frees Israel from the hands of Pharaohs. He forgives them when they fashioned golden calf for themselves as their gods. When they were in diaspora, in various exiles, he brought them back. When they were discouraged, and were tempted to worship other gods, belonging to other cultures, like the Greek culture during the time Hellenism, noted in today’s 1st reading, the Book of Wisdom, God pitied, warned, encouraged, rebuked, judged, forgave and still loved Israel. He overlooked their sins, so that they may repent and return to him. He empowered, and exhorted them through his messengers, the prophets and Apostles of the Gentiles, as is the case in today’s 2nd reading- St Paul encouraging the discouraged Church in Thessalonica.
Whenever you are discouraged for one reason or the other, nasty and uncertain politics, poor economics or personal mistakes, know that, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. God is watching over you. Think of Peter who once denied Christ. Things were turned around. What about the doubting Thomas? He acknowledged his unbelief and became a believer. What about the supposedly episode of the woman caught in adultery? What about the man born blind? This is who God is ,as manifested in Christ, of today’s Gospel of Luke 19:1-10, the savior of the(soter tou cosmou), the Son of Man who came to seek and save what was lost and to heal the unhealthy!
What a faith story! In today’s Gospel as he was passing through Jericho conquered for Joshua and his generation by God himself in Joshua 6, Jesus, 'the Joshua" of the NT, asks Zacchaeus ,a rich tax collector, thought by some to be a sinner to come down from the tree. Christ forgives the repentant and restituted Zacchaeus, dines with him and blesses him. If the restituted Zacchaeus could be saved to the grumbling of those who thought they were holier, than Zacchaeus, any of us could be saved, provided we acknowledge our sins, as well as our Lord Jesus as our God and savior.
At this Mass may we return to God in humble prayer; ask for forgiveness and blessings upon us, nations and upon our families, the church, especially in this Year of Mercy. And may we also strive to make use of the different ways the Church has provided us for repentance, especially the sacrament of penance and anointing of the sick. And as the Lord continues to be compassionate and merciful to us, may we, wherever we are readily share the Lord’s compassion, love and mercy with our neighbors, “for God so love the world that he sent his only beloved Son, that whoever believes in him, might be saved!.