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Bishop's Homily for the Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today you climbed a tree to see Jesus.

By Bishop Larry Silva
October 30, 2022

[Korean Catholic Community at St. Andrew Taegon Oratory, Honolulu]

Today you climbed a tree to see Jesus.  You took the time out of your busy schedule to drive to this church and to encounter Jesus.  Maybe you only expect to see him from a distance as he passes by, then you can go home just a little more satisfied.  But what if Jesus stops in his tracks, looks at you, and says he wants to go to your house?

What happened to Zacchaeus so many centuries ago could happen to you, if you open your hearts to the call of Jesus.  Zacchaeus was surprised by such great mercy and love, and this caused him not only to entertain Jesus in his own house but to change his dishonest and greedy ways.  And so it can be for each one of us.

Zacchaeus collected taxes for Rome, the Empire that occupied and oppressed Israel at that time.  He was a traitor to his own heritage.  Yet somehow he opened his heart enough that it could be changed, and Jesus welcomes him into the Kingdom of God.

We collect taxes for our oppressor, Satan, in many ways.  We rob people of their good names through gossip.  We rob our spouses and children of love when we become so demanding of them that they forget that love is meant to be the basis of all family life.  We see our world choosing values that are self-destructive or destructive of the lives of others, and we rob them of our voice or our vote to speak out for those who have no voice.  We become greedy when we have enough but keep amassing a fortune when so many of our neighbors have so very little.  Yes, we are Zacchaeus in so many ways.

But the good news is that we have bothered to climb the tree to see Jesus more clearly, and we did so by coming here to Mass.  If we allow him, he also wants to look each one of us in the eye and tell us how much he wants to be with us in a holy and intimate communion.  If we allow him to do this, our lives also will be changed.  We will leave sin behind and embrace the Good News of Jesus, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of others with whom we share the Good News of his merciful love.

As Zacchaeus was filled with holy joy, so will we be as we allow ourselves to encounter Jesus himself, and allow him to change our hearts with his love.