Fr. Jolly’s Homily for Sunday, November 3, 2019

31st SOT Luke 19 1-10

In the late 1980’s Boris Becker was the number one tennis star in the world. At the height of his tennis career, he had won Wimbledon two times. He got the tittle as youngest-ever winner of the men’s singles at Wimbledon at the age of 17. He was very rich and could afford all the material comfort and luxury he wanted. But he was an unhappy man. In spite of all his achievements, his life was so empty and meaningless that he considered suicide several times. “I had no inner peace,” he said. Becker is not alone in this feeling of emptiness. Many successful people who overlooked the inner life, the spiritual life felt the same way. According to J. Oswald Sanders in his book Facing Loneliness, “The millionaire is usually a lonely man and the comedian is often more unhappy than his audience.” Jack Higgens, author many famous novels said about life “when you get to the top, there’s nothing there.”

According to the Gospel story Zacchaeus was such a man of loneliness and emptiness.  He had two problems: His first problem was that he didn’t think he mattered. Zacchaeus was considered “a nobody”, a non-person.  Bible says that he is short. According to the Middle Eastern culture height was considered as a sign of God’s blessings.  He was also a tax collector.  People did not call him by name. They called him a tax collector. In the Middle Eastern culture a name is not just a label; it means the essence of who a person is.  To know a person’s name is to know them at their deepest level. Nobody likes a tax collector, because he was collecting tax from his poor fellow citizens for the Romans. Basically he was a traitor and a cheat.  His second problem was that not thinking he mattered, he didn’t think anyone else mattered either. So he abused them.  He cheated them.  He treated them like they were insignificant.

Out of all the people of Jericho Jesus is the only one that will call Zacchaeus by name.  Jesus has been walking the streets of Jericho calling Zacchaeus by name, because he mattered to Jesus.  To Jesus Zacchaeus was more than just a job title, or a moral category, or a “sinner”.  He was “Zacchaeus” and he was always meant to be part of the family of God.  No matter how many handsome people were there, no matter how many good people there were in Jericho, God’s party was not complete unless Zacchaeus was there. When Jesus told him that Zacchaeus matters to him, all his problems are solved. He became a good person.  He wants to make other people matter too.  Knowing that he is loved by Christ, he wants to spread that love of Christ to other people.

The bible says he hurried down and took Jesus to his home. At the dinner Jesus did not preach to Zacchaeus that he must repent or go to hell. Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much. By giving half of his wealth to the poor and using the other half to repay fourfold to all those he had defrauded, Zacchaeus’ wealth would be all but gone. Who needs all that money when you have found a meaningful life? Friends, do you have a meaningful and happy life? You may be at the top of everything; but if Jesus is not there; there is nothing there. Today you may be feeling emptiness in your life. You may not have inner peace! Or you may be feeling loneliness! But today Jesus tells you; “son, daughter hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today” you mean so much to me! Today, as you go home, will you take Jesus with you!

Zacchaeus was trying to see what Jesus was like, but being small of stature, was unable to do so because of the crowd.” So many people are trying to see what Jesus is like. But they’re small and the crowd is large. Sometimes the crowd consists not of people around us but rather things inside us. How many have a crowd of fears, doubts, and selfish desires inside? To see Jesus we must fight our way through the crowd (Lk 8:45) or climb above it. For example: If I told you to go to Confession right now, a crowd would form for some of you. You may feel afraid. Before long, you’d have a hundred reasons why you’re not going. You have to fight through the crowd to touch Jesus and be washed in His blood. What if I told you to go to Mass daily, lead someone to Christ, or tithe? For many of us, another crowd of sin, selfishness, doubt, fear, and anxiety would form. We must climb the tree of faith above the crowd and fight by faith through the crowd.

You might be thinking it’s easy for you, father to say let go! But you don’t know what I went through!  Things to remember next time you feel like a worthless sinner whom God can’t use: Noah was a drunk, Abraham was too old, Isaac was a day-dreamer, Jacob was a liar, Leah was ugly, Joseph was abused, Moses had a stuttering problem, Gideon was a coward, Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer, Rahab was a prostitute, Jeremiah and Timothy were too young, David had an affair and was a murderer, Elijah was deeply depressed, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran away from God, Naomi was a widow, Job went bankrupt, John the Baptist ate locusts, Peter denied Christ, the apostles fell asleep while praying, Martha worried about everything, the Samaritan woman was divorced more than once, Zacchaeus was too small, Paul was a fanatic, Timothy had an ulcer…and Lazarus was dead! We have no more excuses now.  God can use us to our full potential.  Besides, we aren’t the message; we are just the messenger.

Let’s always remember, God’s party is not complete unless you are there.  You are a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God.  No one can take your place in God’s kingdom. If you are not there, God will miss you.  And so Jesus will not stop searching for us, not stop calling our name, until we come to Him.  He loves us that much, not because of what we are, but because of who we are.  Or more significantly, because of whose we are. We are His. He made us. He bought us with a price, and
He loves us because of who we are. Look at yourself through god’s eye and look at others through God’s eye. Then you will realize that you matter to God and others matter to God as well.