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Reflection On The Gospel For 31st Sunday Ordinary Time, Luke 19. 1-10: By Fr. Isidore Clarke, O.P.

Reflection On The Gospel For 31st Sunday Ordinary Time, Luke 19. 1-10:         By Fr. Isidore Clarke, O.P.

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Greetings from Fr. Isidore Clarke on the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time.Today's Gospel, Luke 19. 1-10, is about someone who is prepared to make a fool of himself to see Jesus.

Last Sunday's Gospel was about a tax collector -and so is today's.Certainly they would have been unpopular, since no one likes paying taxes.Worse still, tax collectors had the reputation of charging extortionate rates.Some of them worked for the Roman occupying force and that would have made them even more unpopular.What would have come as a shock to pious Jews was that last week we saw Jesus holding up a tax collector as an example of how to pray, rather than the Pharisee, who was an official, much-respected religious leader.Jesus even went so far as to say that the repentant sinner was more pleasing to God than the self-righteous Pharisee.

Today's Gospel is about Zacchaeus.As a wealthy tax collector in Jericho he would have been a prominent local dignitary, even though he would have been resented.A respectable Jew wouldn't have chosen him as a friend and been seen dining with him.In spite of his wealth Zacchaeus would have been despised and shunned.

As Jesus entered Jericho Zacchaeus behaves in a most unexpected and undignified way. Because he was short in stature he was prepared to shin up a tree so that he could get a look at Jesus –the famous prophet who was causing such a stir.By climbing the sycamore Zachaeus was prepared to sacrifice his dignity and make himself vulnerable to the crowd's ridicule.Prominent civil servants are not usually in the habit of making such an exhibition of themselves!Imagine your local dignitaries doing that!Zacchaeus must have been a very determined man for whom seeing Jesus was more important than what people thought of him.

What a bizarre scene we're presented with!Jesus, the popular man of God addressed by name Zacchaeus, perched in tree.What is more, Jesus said he wanted to spend the day in Zachaeus' home.A man of God should have known better than to spend time with someone who was written off as a sinner.That would appear to give approval to his life style.

But as Jesus reached out to the sinner Zacchaeus welcomed him not only into his home, but into his life. So great was his joy that he exclaimed, "Look, Lord, half of my possessions I give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will repay it fourfold."…(Lk. 19. 8).As Jesus recognised him as a son of Abraham, and therefore His kinsman, the sinner repented and found salvation.As far Jesus was concerned, he who had been despised and become a social and religious pariah, was no longer an outsider. To Jesus the sinner was important.No wonder Zacchaeus responded with such enthusiasm to the way Jesus sought his company and accept him with such love and compassion.No wonder Zacchaeus was filled with joy!

The punch line in to today's Gospel comes at the very end.Jesus says he's come to seek out and save what was lost.There's the same message in the story about the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears.There's the same lesson in the parables of the Prodigal Son and also of the lost sheep.Jesus has come to forgive and save even the greatest of sinners, and does not want to condemn and punish anyone.If we want to be saved we must be like Zacchaeus in repenting and welcoming Jesus into our whole lives.Never should we despair of our own salvation or that of any body else.

Fr. Isidore, O.P.

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