November 3, 2019 • Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
First Reading: Wisdom 11:22–12:2
Psalm: Psalm 145:1–2, 8–9, 10–11, 13, 14 (cf. 1)
Second Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:11–2:2
Gospel Acclamation: John 3:16
Gospel: Luke 19:1–10
God, the Creator of all that is, loves us all passionately. He is for us even while we are yet sinners. He wants us to turn around, come back home and trust in His love, mercy and forgiveness. That theme is repeated over and over and over again in the Old and New Testaments. But it is hard to get the message through our thick heads and our fearful and perhaps calloused hearts.
The first reading is from the Book of Wisdom, one of the books many of the Reformers threw out in adopting the Hebrew canon rather than accepting the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Old Testament accepted by the Church for the first 1500 years. These books are rich, and I marveled at today’s reading.
The first thing we see in the passage is that the whole universe is as a kernel of grain left on a scale or a drop of morning dew on a blade of grass. That is how great and powerful our Creator, the Lord, is! When I pray the Rosary, the second prayer is the Apostles Creed, which starts out with, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth.” That’s the God I believe in! Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? And that is what we need as we head into our days. But this passage in Wisdom gives an even greater perspective on God by comparing the smallness of His creation to Himself. Wow!
The next verse says that His greatness, His omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence, are the basis of His mercy on all, and when God overlooks the sins in our lives, it is because He is merciful and is working with us towards our repentance, like a loving parent with a rebellious child. His goal is our repentance, reconciliation, restoration and salvation.
Next, we see that God created everything out of love, for God is love. God’s love was the motivation for creation and is the sustaining power behind it. He is merciful and sparing to His creation, because it is His, and He is a lover of souls, and the Holy Spirit moves in and around us as we saw Him hovering over creation in the beginning.
And so the author concludes that because all these things are true about God, that is why He patiently works with us, rebuking us little by little, warning us and reminding us of the things we have done that we shouldn’t have and the things that we haven’t done that we should have, hoping that we will see our need for Him and turn to our Papa and trust Him for our much needed forgiveness, reconciliation, healing and restoration.
The Psalm is a song of praise, praising God for His qualities, that were revealed in the first reading. Our response should be, “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God!” See the reasons for our praise and thanksgiving listed in verses 8, 9, 13b and 14 below.
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works.
The LORD is faithful in all his words and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.
The Second Reading has to do with our response to God, incorporating what we have learned about our God in the First Reading and the Psalm.
First, we need to pray for each other, according to this knowledge, as Saint Paul and his companions in ministry were praying for the believers that they were ministering to.
Paul shares his prayer with us. Here are the requests.
- That God would make us worthy of His calling and He would powerfully bring that calling to fulfillment. That is God’s part, not ours. It reminds me of the phrase in the prayer, Hail Holy Queen: “Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”
- How does God do this? He uses every good purpose (will, direction) and every effort of faith (action based on trust) that we offer Him; this is our part. God is there to do the heavy lifting, as we move in faith and obedience in response to His calling. He rejoices over our every triumph of grace, when we choose Him and follow Jesus.
- The result will be that the name of Jesus will be glorified in us and we will be glorified together with Him (instead of trying to glorify ourselves) in this working out of our God’s and our Lord Jesus Christ’s grace.
Second, we need to keep our focus on working with Jesus through the present, while looking forward to our Lord’s coming. So, what’s the problem here? Throughout the history of the Church, starting with the pages of the Book of 2 Thessalonians, there has been a tendency on the part of God’s people to stop working when they think the Lord is coming back tomorrow. We quit our jobs, sell our belongings and party in some field or on some hilltop. We become a disorderly mob. That’s why Paul penned this letter as a corrective.
The Alleluia Verse is John 3:16, which points to Jesus as proof that God is the lover of all souls.
We see Jesus, God made Man, living out the truth of today’s readings in the story of His encounter with Zacchaeus, a hated chief tax collector. Zacchaeus was an outcast from the Jewish people because of his self-benefiting collaboration with the Roman authorities in collecting their taxes for them from his own people. But Jesus joyfully greets him up in the tree and invites himself to the house of Zacchaeus, where the man has a change of heart and future. God is a lover of all souls.
Christianity is a state of heart and mind in harmony with our Creator, living out our calling in the midst of a broken world which He desires to restore through His Son, Jesus Christ, who loves us and gives Himself for us forever.