31st Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: October 30, 2022
Praying with the Bible is a valuable part of our spiritual life as Christians. The Church says that the Bible is the soul of our theology. There are different ways to pray with the Bible. One way is to use our imagination and to enter into a story. Especially with action passages that we see in the Gospels.
Today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel with the story about Zacchaeus the tax collector would be a good passage to pray with in this way. Using our imagination in praying with the Bible, we begin by quietly reading the passage. Then we enter into the story. Become one of the characters. Or imagine being someone watching what happens.
In this passage, some of us might imagine being Zacchaeus, trying to see Jesus. How many of us long to be close to Jesus, to speak to Jesus, to encounter Jesus, to spend time with Jesus. Like Zacchaeus, sometimes we struggle to see Jesus in our lives.
We are too short! We come to Mass each Sunday because we want to be where Jesus is coming so that we can speak to him, spend time with him. In coming to Mass or praying with the Gospels or any other sort of prayer, we are like Zacchaeus who climbed the sycamore tree in order to see Jesus above the crowd.
But, this week I was thinking about that crowd that was there to greet Jesus. The crowd became an obstacle preventing Zacchaeus from seeing Jesus. In what ways is the church like that crowd? In what ways are we like that crowd, an obstacle to others seeing Jesus? Perhaps by the way I treat them. By how I speak. By how I live my Christian faith.
Am I with others in such a way that it allows them to see Jesus, or does it act as an obstacle to them seeing Jesus? This is a good examination for each one of us as a disciple of Jesus. Do I live and be with others in such a way that helps them to see Jesus or am I in some way being an obstacle to others seeing Jesus?
That crowd in the Gospel today was not only an obstacle to Zacchaeus seeing Jesus. After Jesus calls him and invites himself to his home, the crowd is not happy for him. Instead they are grumbling that this man whom they saw as a sinner would be welcomed by Jesus. Are we like that crowd sometimes? Are we upset with if there are certain people welcomed into the church to be with Jesus? Are there certain people that we consider sinful and so should not be welcomed into the church?
Pray with the Gospels, use your imagination and enter into the story and allow God to speak to your heart, to challenge you. The story of Zacchaeus should challenge us that we do not become like the crowd who was an obstacle to Zacchaeus seeing Jesus. And we need to watch that we are not like the crowd grumbling when people we consider sinful are welcomed into the church.
For Jesus came “to seek out and save the lost” and so we the body of Christ in the church should be a church that seeks out and saves the lost. We should welcome all, because perhaps Jesus is calling them and wanting to eat in their home like he did with Zacchaeus.