Called By God: A Woman Priest’s Homily for 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time 10/30/16
We present here Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan’s homily for this Sunday. Rev. Meehan deftly connects the readings for the day with the themes of God’s great love for us and God’s call to each one of us. The gospel for the day is the calling of Zaccheus, the short of stature tax collector whom others see as a sinner. Zaccheus climbs a tree to even see Jesus and Jesus honors him with a visit to his home. Zaccheus is filled with Jesus’ love and promises to right his wrongs toward others. The Psalm of the day reminds us: “Our God lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”(Psalm 145:14). As I read the Gospel text I identify with Zaccheus, not because I am rich or have cheated others, but because my own imperfections are ever before me. They are different from Zaccheus’ imperfections but there nonetheless. I am so pleased to be loved by God as Dr. Meehan points out and to be invited to house Jesus. As I struggle with the difficult transitions of my life I look to our loving God to be lifted up and raised up. And I pray that my service to others who have little and hurt much brings the face of Love to them. So if you feel like Zaccheus today-climb the tree of faith and look for Jesus who will welcome you with open arms. Then carry him to everyone and live your calling to love and enact justice.
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Homily Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan, RCWP:
Thirty-First Sunday Ordinary Time – Cycle C – 30 October 2016
Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2
Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14
2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 2:2
[The Book of Wisdom is found in the Apocryphal section of some translations of the Bible.]
One of the themes brought out in today’s readings is the call. We are told we are good and we are told to follow our call. Our calls are not denied and the theme of call runs throughout today’s readings. But, what else is there?
Look at this phrase from the Book of Wisdom. “You [God] love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made.” Were we not all made by God? Do we not all fall in this category of God loving all things that God has made? Of course we have heard since we were small children that God loves us. But, how often have we stopped and thought about how absolute and profound that statement is?
The reading goes on with, “for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.” God is absolutely and positively in love with each one of us and if God were not in love with us, we simply would not be here. We would never have been here! Look at a few more phrases from Wisdom. “And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?” Have we not been willed by God? Have we not been called forth?
Sometimes words like that sound very distant. We know them in theory but do we really know them in our heart of hearts? Think of the person you find most despicable, the person you absolutely abhor. Does it hurt you to think that God loves that person with the same absolute passion that God loves you?
How does this statement of love relate to our call today? Look at the letter to the Thessalonians. “(W)e always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith.” We see a very definite progression here. God is absolutely in love with each one of us and now we hear a prayer that we may be made worthy of God’s call. Yes! God is calling each of us. Our calls may be temporary or our calls may be permanent. We may have a call to listen to someone for an hour or we may have a call to spend forty years as a missionary in a foreign land. We may be called to our family situation or to our profession. We may even be called to be unemployed. But, regardless, God calls each of us.
The point is that the letter to the Thessalonians is a prayer that we may be worthy of our call. Our calls are unique. They are a part of who and what we are. They are a part of our innermost beings. Are we worthy? We are working on it! We are not perfect. Think back to that question of how we react to God loving the most despicable person we can think of even as God loves us. It does not matter that we are not perfect. Only God is perfect; all we can do is strive toward perfection and ask that we may be worthy of our call. No one in Scripture was worthy of his or her call – at least not by our standards. But, every one had a call. Every one of us also has a call (or a series of calls). We can only ask to be worthy of our call. We will falter and sometimes we will fail but if we remember that our God is absolutely in love with us, our ultimate moment is not failure but the fulfillment of God’s ultimate purpose for each of us.
It is interesting that the gospel today – Luke’s story of that short and bossy little chief tax collector named Zacchaeus – should be a part of this series of readings on our call. Tax collectors were held in less regard in Scriptural times than they are today. The followers of Jesus certainly had no great love for Zacchaeus! He was a tax collector and he was rich. But, he knew how to answer the call! It is entirely possible that professionally he was called to be a tax collector! He was also called by Jesus. Look at what Zacchaeus had to do just to see Jesus! Somehow he got up in that sycamore tree. This may have been quite a feat for a short fellow! He felt the call – a call that extended beyond his profession as a tax collector. And he felt it so strongly that he went to extreme lengths to answer it!
But, even though Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus, Jesus was actually searching for Zacchaeus and Jesus told him gently to come out of the tree because he (Jesus) was going to stay at Zacchaeus’ house that night. Again we see the absolute love of God – the Hound of Heaven. And what does Zacchaeus do? He prays the essence of the message from Thessalonians! He prays to be worthy. He makes a commitment to his call from God. He will give half to the poor; he will repay anyone he has cheated four-fold; he will turn his life over to God.
And, God says that salvation has come to Zacchaeus’ house. Notice that we have no indication that Zacchaeus will stop being a tax collector. That may well have been and would continue to be his professional calling. We also have no indication that he will stop being rich. Even if he gave away half of his possessions, he may still have had enough to be classified as rich.
But, notice something else. His answering the call was a change of heart. He knew that God loved him absolutely. He knew he was going to make amends for any wrongdoing and he was going to turn his will and his life over to God. He was answering his call from God. We do not know if he changed his profession; we do know he changed his life. He answered the call to be who he was – the beloved child of God, doing what he could do to be what the love that God had for him called him to be. That is our calling too.
Roberta M. Meehan, D.Min.,RCWP