A reflection on the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time. First reading: Wisdom 11.22-12.2; Second reading: 2 Thessalonians 1.11-2.2; Gospel: Luke 19.1-10
Jesus’ life was spent teaching us about God’s plan for all creation and what it means to bring to fruition and to live the Reign of God here on Earth—a world that is peaceful, just, and inclusive, where all of our actions are led by love, forgiveness, and compassion for all. Over and over again in the Scriptures, Jesus teaches us how we are to treat each other, how we are to see and understand God, how we are to pray, how we are to see all of God’s creation as sacred, how we are to live with hope, mercy, and love.
In reflecting on the story of Zacchaeus in Luke’s Gospel, Pope Francis says that Jesus “always opens new areas of life; He does not halt at appearances but looks at the heart.” Pope Francis says that Zacchaeus was surprised at Jesus’ openness to him, a tax collector and a sinner, even to the point of Jesus asking to stay with Zacchaeus at his home.
“Jesus’ gaze goes beyond sins and prejudices; He sees a person with the eyes of God who does not stop at past evil, but perceives the future good.” (Pope Francis)
“Jesus’ gaze goes beyond sins and prejudices,” the pope says. “He sees a person with the eyes of God, who does not stop at past evil but perceives the future good.”
Often our response is to correct, reprimand, and reproach. However, Pope Francis says that Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus shows us another way: reflecting back to people their true value, which is what God sees despite everything, despite all of our mistakes and sinfulness. This response, the Pope says, brings out the goodness in people and gives them confidence to grow and change.
For Pope Francis, “all are encouraged to have emerge the image of God imprinted in their heart…and rejoice over the surprises of the mercy of God…Our God of surprises!”