November 18, 2013

The Gospel Today 

Monday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 18:35-43

As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging,
and hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what was happening.
They told him,
“Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”
He shouted, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!”
The people walking in front rebuked him,
telling him to be silent,
but he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me!”
Then Jesus stopped and ordered that he be brought to him;
and when he came near, Jesus asked him,
“What do you want me to do for you?”
He replied, “Lord, please let me see.”
Jesus told him, “Have sight; your faith has saved you.”
He immediately received his sight
and followed him, giving glory to God.
When they saw this, all the people gave praise to God.

Reflection (Sem. Emmanuel Calumpong):

     A friend once told me that she was shocked to hear about priests celebrating mass at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) office, home to allegedly “corrupt tax collectors.”  She was almost fuming, as she demanded to know why priests were not prophetic enough to dress them down and lecture them on social justice and Divine wrath instead of doing favor for them. I retorted that the people attending these masses, in all fairness, are not the wealthy officials, but rather normal, everyday employees who earn their livelihood from this huge government agency.

     My friend’s sentiment echoes the aversion that the Jews had towards tax collectors who betrayed their own people not only by serving imperial Rome, but also by exacting an extra surcharge to fill their own pockets.  Zacchaeus was such a “persona non grata”, midget in stature and living in splendid isolation as head of the Roman BIR.  Ironically, his name means “pure and clean” in Hebrew, but in the eyes of his contemporaries he was considered as “dirty” as the lepers and harlots.  Deep within him, however, was a hunger for the forgiving God.  Upon hearing about this man, Jesus, he ventured out and climbed up a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of him. The Lord knew that Zacchaeus, like every person, harbored basic goodness in him.  Jesus took the initiative and called Zacchaeus by name, much to the consternation of self-righteous people around him. There were no words of condemnation or lectures on social justice, which might have driven Zacchaeus further up the tree.  By entering Zacchaeus’ house and dining with him, Jesus entered the inner chambers of his heart restoring his alienated self to dignity.

     Too often, we are harshly judgmental in our attitude towards others and ourselves.  We keep purifying ourselves in order to be worthy of the Lord.  The amazing thing is that God loves the sinner just as much as He loves the saint.  Amazing indeed, but also liberating to know that salvation comes primarily from God’s initiative and not from our own vain efforts of self-justification.

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