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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
1st Reading (2Macc 6:18-31): Eleazar, one of the foremost scribes, a man of advanced age and noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth to eat pork. But preferring a glorious death to a life of defilement, he spat out the meat, and went forward of his own accord to the instrument of torture, as people ought to do who have the courage to reject the food which it is unlawful to taste even for love of life. Those in charge of that unlawful ritual meal took the man aside privately, because of their long acquaintance with him, and urged him to bring meat of his own providing, such as he could legitimately eat, and to pretend to be eating some of the meat of the sacrifice prescribed by the king; in this way he would escape the death penalty, and be treated kindly because of their old friendship with him.

But Eleazar made up his mind in a noble manner, worthy of his years, the dignity of his advanced age, the merited distinction of his gray hair, and of the admirable life he had lived from childhood; and so he declared that above all he would be loyal to the holy laws given by God. He told them to send him at once to the abode of the dead, explaining: «At our age it would be unbecoming to make such a pretense; many young people would think the ninety-year-old Eleazar had gone over to an alien religion. Should I thus pretend for the sake of a brief moment of life, they would be led astray by me, while I would bring shame and dishonor on my old age. Even if, for the time being, I avoid the punishment of men, I shall never, whether alive or dead, escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will prove myself worthy of my old age, and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws». Eleazar spoke thus, and went immediately to the instrument of torture.

Those who shortly before had been kindly disposed, now became hostile toward him because what he had said seemed to them utter madness. When he was about to die under the blows, he groaned and said: «The Lord in his holy knowledge knows full well that, although I could have escaped death, I am not only enduring terrible pain in my body from this scourging, but also suffering it with joy in my soul because of my devotion to him». This is how he died, leaving in his death a model of courage and an unforgettable example of virtue not only for the young but for the whole nation.
Responsorial Psalm: 3
R/. The Lord upholds me.
O Lord, how many are my adversaries! Many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, «There is no salvation for him in God».

But you, o Lord, are my shield; my glory, you lift up my head! When I call out to the Lord, he answers me from his holy mountain.

When I lie down in sleep, I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. I fear not the myriads of people arrayed against me on every side.
Versicle before the Gospel (1Jn 4:10): Alleluia. God loved us, and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Lk 19:1-10): At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy.

When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Fr. Enric RIBAS i Baciana (Barcelona, Spain)

Today, I'll be Zacchaeus. This personage was a wealthy man and the chief of the Publicans; I have more than I need and, perhaps too often, I behave like a Publican and forget about Jesus Christ. Amidst the crowd, Jesus seeks Zacchaeus; today, amidst our world, He is precisely looking for me: “come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house” (Lk 19:5).

Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus; if he does not run ahead and climb up the sycamore tree, he will not be able to see him. I would also like to see God's deeds as much as possible! but I'm not too sure I am willing to behave like a fool as Zacchaeus did. To allow for Jesus' reaction, the disposition of the chief among the Jericho Publicans is required; and, if he does not hurry up, he may eventually lose the opportunity to be touched by Jesus and be therefore saved. Maybe I have had too many occasions to meet Jesus and maybe it is about time to be courageous, to leave home to meet Him and invite Him to enter me, so that He can also say about me: “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Lk 19:9-10).

Zacchaeus receives Jesus into his home, his life and his heart, even though he probably does not feel worthy of a visit like that. His conversion is total: he begins by giving up any ambition for riches, followed with the intention to share his goods and he ends up with the strong decision to impart justice, while remedying his sins. Maybe, for a long time, Jesus has been asking me something similar, but I did not want to hear Him and turned my deaf ears; I must still be converted.

St. Maximus said: “There is nothing God loves more and pleases him best as a man converting with true regret.” Let him help me to make it come true today.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “What is carried out with a disposition of sad and forced mood does not deserve gratitude nor has nobility. So, when we do good, we must do it, not sadly, but with joy” (Saint Gregory of Nazianzen)

  • “The term “eternal life” is intended to give a name to this known “unknown”. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense. We must think along these lines if we want to understand the object of Christian hope.” (Benedict XVI)

  • “Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is "given up for us," and the blood we drink "shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins." For this reason the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n 1393)