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31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

posted 6 Nov 2019, 03:56 by Our Lady of Fatima Church - White City London   [ updated 6 Nov 2019, 03:57 ]
Zacchaeus’s New Life 

Today’s Gospel presents the life-changing encounter between Jesus and a senior tax collector in Jericho, Zacchaeus. Jericho was on a major trade route between Jerusalem and the East which meant that it was also an important customs centre – an ideal place for an ambitious tax collector like Zacchaeus. However, we sense that Zacchaeus has reached a crisis point in his life – yes, his job has made him very rich but this wealth has come at a very high cost. Despised by his fellow Jews for being a traitor and a parasite on his own people, he would have lived a lonely existence of loveless luxury. He is also short – short in stature and very short of friends!

This emptiness moves him to take the risk of making a fool of himself by climbing a sycamore tree on the route which he expected Jesus to follow through the city. Perhaps he hoped he would go unnoticed hiding in the dense foliage of the tree. Perhaps he had heard of how another tax collector, Matthew, had left behind his old life and become a close follower of Jesus. Soon the crowds fill the street as Jesus approaches, but Jesus does not pass by the sycamore tree. Instead he notices the little man up the tree and calls him to come down and be Jesus’ host for dinner. Can you imagine the effect this had on Zacchaeus – “How does Jesus know my name?”, “Why would he want to come to my house, which everyone else avoids because they hate me?” Just like Matthew before him, Zacchaeus is inspired by the simple words, the gaze and the warmth of Jesus to immediately renounce his old ways and start a new life. He announces publicly that he will recompense four-fold anyone he has cheated – which was way beyond what the law would have demanded of him. The crowd mumble their disapproval as they still have a prejudiced, narrow view of this man. Jesus in contrast has a vision of who Zacchaeus could be. Jesus does not believe that ‘tax collector’, ‘traitor’ or ‘sinner’ is the final description of any person. Jesus also has a liberating vision for your life and mine. Like Zacchaeus, we just need to live it!

With warmest wishes & prayers from Fr Richard, Fr Ephrem & the parish team