Corpus Christi Blog

God’s love invites conversion

10-30-2016HomiliesFr. Chad King

The Church gives us such amazing and powerful readings today.  In our 1st reading we come to know the depth of who God is and what He wants, and also who we are and who we are meant to be.  Then in our Gospel in the story of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus, we see how this identity of God and of human beings is to be applied in our lives.

So first let us look at our 1st reading from the Book of Wisdom and learn who God is.  This is such amazing passage, that I ask you to open your heart in this Mass and let our Lord inspire you.  But I also encourage you to take this reading into prayer later on today or sometime this week and let the truth of this message of who God is sink into your heart- because this truth is the foundation of Christianity, this truth is necessary for each one of us to really know and receive in the depth of our hearts.

Our 1st reading begins- “Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth”.  Think about how you treat a crumb of bread on the counter, don’t we just wipe it off without really thinking about it.   Same with a drop of morning dew on a blade of grass- we don’t need it; it doesn’t really affect or change us.  God is the creator of the universe, everything came into being from God.  For God, the whole universe is like a crumb of bread on the counter or dew on the grass.  The universe, all of creation, doesn’t add anything to God greatness.

Our 1st reading goes on, “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.  For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned”.  This passage is so important for us to meditate on because so much of our Christian faith is affected by this very truth.  It is because God does not need the world, that everything that exists has been loved into being.  Love is willing the good of the other, it is not loving your own good through the other.  But is really wanting what is good for the other.  All that God can do is love things into creation because nothing adds anything to who He is.  God isn’t dependent on the response from what He loves.  Nevertheless, God has loved all things into being and hates nothing He has made.  This means that God doesn’t love things because of the wonderful qualities of the other, that is how we tend to love.  If you are nice to me, if you love me- then I will love you.  But God doesn’t love because of the qualities of the other, rather the other has the wonderful qualities, including existence itself, because of God’s unconditional love for it.  God’s love always comes first; God’s love makes things what they are.  Apply that to us, God doesn’t love us because we are good, we are good because God loves us. 

That is not just a nice statement- but that is a truth that we need to understand in the depth of who we are- because this truth will change our lives: So often the same games we play with other people, we also play with God- We think the other will love me if I am good to them.  I better be good, kind, and just, so that they will love me.  With God we think- I better be act rightly, I better do good so that He will bless me.  If I behave well, then my reward will be His blessings.  God’s love comes first; we act rightly because God loves us.

Our passage from the book of Wisdom continues, “How could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called from by you?  But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and Love of souls”.  Again, I encourage you to take this truth to prayer- we continue to exist, all thing continues to be because all things belong to God who is Lord and Lover of souls.  Take that phrase into prayer- Lover of souls.  There are so many people who don’t believe in God, or if they do- they think God is simply a distant force- certainly not a Lover of souls.  God loves your soul, each one of your souls, he loves my soul- we know this because you and I continue to have life- God continues to love us into being. God is a lover of souls, God pursues us.  God doesn’t pursue us because he needs something from us, rather God pursues us simply because that is what love does.  Love doesn’t give up on another, and again, not out of selfish need but for the good of the other.  So really, Christianity, and our growth of holiness, isn’t so much about us believing in God as it, as it is allowing ourselves to be found by God.  It means surrendering and allowing the Lover of souls truly love us.

As a Lover of souls, our 1st reading concludes, God “rebukes offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord”.  Indeed, whenever we let God come into us and allow Him to be the Lover of our souls- then He gently shows us of our weaknesses, he shows us the areas that needs to be cleaned before He can fully reside.  God is a lover of our souls, God deeply loves each one of us, and even though we don’t add anything, love demands a response.  God loves us too much to let us stay where we are, but slowly and surely God continues to pursue us until we are fully possessed by Him.

So hopefully now that we have let the truth God in our 1st reading sink in to our hearts, let us look at the story of Zacchaeus in our Gospel to see how to apply it in our lives- let us learn how we are to respond to God’s love for us.

The Gospel tells us that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector.  Tax collectors were hated by the Jews because they essentially stole from the people, they collected more than the government called for and kept it for themselves.  So if tax collectors were despised, you can imagine how much a chief tax collector was hated.  Because he was a thief and extorted money from the people, Zacchaeus was very wealthy.  Therefore, everyone knew who Zacchaeus was, he was hated by everyone.  And because he was recognized publicly as a sinner, the people, especially the Pharisees, had wrote him off and wanted nothing to do with him. 

Now we don’t know what made Zacchaeus want to see Jesus and seek him out.  Think about what Zacchaeus did, even though he was hated by the people, he purposefully and publicly humbled himself and in such an undignified way, went so far as to climb a tree in order to see Jesus.  St. Augustine reflected that Zacchaeus was able to see Jesus because he humbled himself and wasn’t ashamed in his sin to climb the tree.

However, notice that although Zacchaeus climbed the tree and sought to see Jesus, it was Jesus who initiated the encounter.  Jesus purposely stopped and looked up to Zacchaeus in the tree and said, “Come down quickly for today I must stay at your house”.  Zacchaeus came down quickly and received Jesus with joy.  The people were shocked and grumbled thinking that Jesus shouldn’t have anything to do with a sinner.  But instead He ignores the people because Jesus, the Icon of God the Father, is a lover of souls.  As a love of souls, He loves and pursues the sinner Zacchaeus, and every sinner.

After the pursuit and receiving Jesus with joy, look what Zacchaeus does.  He says, “Behold half of my possessions I shall give to the poor; and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it four times over”.  To give back 4 times what was stolen was what the law of Moses commanded thieves to do, and so by doing so, Zacchaeus was publicly admitting that he was a thief.  In essence, Zacchaeus publicly confessed and repented of his sins.

And because of Zacchaeus’ confession and repentance, Jesus forgives him of his sins, and says to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost”.  Jesus forgives the sinner, and welcomes him back as a son.  Although the people ignored the sinner, Jesus has restored him as a son.

Therefore, Zacchaeus teaches us that the proper response to God’s pursuit should be confession and repentance.  Conversion should be the proper response to God’s love for us; and so we too should allow Him to change us from the inside out.  We are here in this Mass because of God’s love and pursuit for us, so in this Eucharist let us truly receive Christ with a renewed joy, and ask Him to change our hearts to become more like His.  God is pursuing you, what is your response?