From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
October 30 – Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
“You have mercy on all because you can do all things.” Our first reading this week from the book of Wisdom presents God’s mercy and compassion more clearly than perhaps any place in the Old Testament. In these passages, we hear about the gentleness and patience, and generosity of a loving and merciful God. God is a “Lover of Souls.” He loves all because he made all and he is in all. He reminds us of our sins, not as punishment, but that we might recognize them and walk away from them into his loving arms. There is nothing we do to earn his love. It is there for us – because of his mercy and grace – always waiting, never wavering, ever-present, and infinite in nature if we will only ask for it. God, who “loves all things that are”…whose “imperishable spirit is in all things;” God, “the lover of souls” will never move from a stance of infinite love for you and me and all creation. It is up to us to decide whether to accept or reject his love. And it doesn’t matter who we are, or what we have done, the love remains ready for us to accept.
We see that played out in today’s gospel. For the second week in a row, he shows mercy to a tax collector – the group of perhaps the ‘greatest sinners’ of the day. Zacchaeus was a lost soul – full of sin and likely with few friends. He wants to see Jesus but he stays in the background, climbing a tree to see from a distance. And when Jesus sees him in the tree, he calls him to come down. Jesus expresses his desire to eat at his house. This was a sign of friendship and even intimacy. There is no precondition for him to stay there. Jesus doesn’t say “you must do this or you must do that.” Jesus wants to be in Zacchaeus’ life despite his sins and shortcomings. He extends his ever-present, infinite love, even to Zacchaeus, the worst of the lot, “for the Son of Man has come to save what was lost.” Zacchaeus is moved to set aside his riches and all that is keeping him from Jesus. We should be encouraged by the fact that we can never be so lost, so low, so riddled with sin that we can’t respond to the constant call of God for repentance, As we all come to Jesus as repentant sinners, he replaces our guilt and shame with love and mercy that heals our wounds.
Jesus invites each of us into a relationship, no matter what baggage we may have. He invites us, “come and follow me!” If we allow our lives and our hearts and our happiness to be claimed by the riches of the earth, the desires of greed, and the focus on self – our vision becomes clouded and the door remains closed. But those who set their sights on serving God, worshiping and glorifying God, living as Jesus taught, walking with him every moment of every day, seeking his forgiveness – they will find the mercy and love of God bestowed upon them. The door will be opened, the grace flows forth, and salvation is granted to us. The question is, will we open the door? Will we move the possessions, the riches, the distractions, and the obstacles that are in our lives to make room for Jesus? Will we come to Jesus in joy, as Zacchaeus did, ready to walk with him? It is our choice, but this is where the joy is found, the joy of salvation! Guided by Christ in the living Word, redeemed by Christ through the cross, fed and strengthened by Christ through the Eucharist.
As Vincentians, we are called to be merciful as the Father is merciful. Not only are we called to be merciful, but we are also called to seek out those who are hurting and in need of mercy, approaching them with patience, kindness, gentleness, and generosity. We are to seek friendship so that they may find the hope and healing that comes through merciful love. How do I offer the mercy of Christ to all those I encounter with patience and kindness? How do I seek out those who are hurting so that I might help them to find the hope of Jesus Christ?
Lord Jesus, be merciful to me, a sinner! Give me the grace to accept your mercy and to repent of my sinfulness. Help me to find patience and gentleness as I encounter others that allow them to feel your loving presence. Make me a vessel of your mercy and compassion so that others may find hope and healing. We pray all of this in your name. Amen