Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. READINGS: Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:11 – 2:2, and Luke 19:1-10.
How the Liturgy Makes Us Worthy of Our Calling
The selection of readings at the Holy Mass for this 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time offer a powerful collection of Scriptures to entice us into knowing, understanding, and valuing the immensity of God’s of love and interest is in bringing His People into communion with Him.
The First Reading from the book of Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2 so beautifully describe the heart of God that it barely needs to be commented on, but if imagine if you will a God who never tires of the Holy Mass; of for centuries having those who love Him and those who we He loves gather together to offer Him worhip and praise from the rising of the sun until its setting, from every corner of the earth. Imagine God never tiring to enter our bodies and being consumed by us as the Holy Eucharist. Never ceasing to gather His People across the span of centuries and revealing Himself to them in a manner that they can digest physically and spiritually. God does this, because He deeply yearns for us to know that He is there for us and that He love us. Though His love is always revealing itself and can never be hidden, paradoxically His love is also incomprehensible and unfathomable. To Him, both repentant sinners and saints alike approach with fear and trembling and love, because they know that He loved them first and loves them beyond even their own self-knowledge. For our daily sins of things that we have done and things we have failed to do, we truly deserve death, but as the text reads:
“Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth. But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!”
Most likely, while the Apostle Saint Paul was still in the city of Corinth, he was occasioned to receive a report from Timothy about the Church in Thessalonica where Timothy had been sent in Paul’s stead. There are good things to report about what is going with the Thessalonians, but also the community there had some questions and concerns about the fate of those who died. There seems to be some confusion going about because of small false teachers they had received; thinking that they were associated with Apostolic Church. Therefore, Paul’s address to that community in First Thessalonians concerns some strong units on eschatology. Here, in the opening of the letter, in 1:11 – 2:2, the Apostle begins with offering the faithful a word of encouragement to not be “shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed” concerning what Paul calls the parousia (the coming of Christ) “and our assembling with Him.”
The reason why the Apostle is saying that there is no reason to worry or to be anxious is for the same reason he will tell the Church at Philippi in a future letter; that, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). In this earlier letter, he words this same truth in writing, “We 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, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him.”
The Apostles Paul’s words of encouragement to the Church at Philippi about the intention of God to not abandon the very People who He lovingly created is fulfilled in the Holy Mass. For, it is through the Holy Eucharist that we receive a foretaste of the parousia (the coming of Christ). It is through the liturgy that God forms us as a People to be worthy of the day of Jesus Christ, because understand this, whoever you are during the liturgy is who you will on judgement day. As the Apostle said, whatever good purpose and faith effort you bring, God will fulfill it, and that teaching is most especially true at the Holy Mass where an overflow of God’s graces are available for those with a humble and contrite heart.
Such was the heart of Zacchaeus, the wealthy chief tax collector, who the text says in Luke 19:1-10, “was seeking to see who Jesus was.” Because Zacchaeus was a vertically challenged person, he ran ahead of the crowd “and climbed a sycamore tree in order to” fulfill his hope to see Jesus. In regard to Zacchaeus, you have to admit that a grown man climbing up a tree and hanging on a branch is a funny enough image in itself, but the sight of Zacchaeus jumping off the branch at Jesus’ calling him down tickles me to no end. Yet, that Zacchaeus would climb a tree just to see the Messiah approach is such an admirable image, and perhaps this is what Jesus found as a redemptive quality in him. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house,” Jesus said. God bless the parents at the Holy Mass who lift up their little children just to see Jesus the Holy Eucharist.
The text says, “When they all 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.”
This story from the Gospel of Luke’s is a fulfillment of what we heard read from the book of Wisdom today: “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.” Is not that man Zacchaeus? Zacchaeus running ahead of the crowd and climbing a tree, just to see Jesus, is that not a fulfillment of what the Apostle a called a good purpose and effort of faith, and did not God powerfully bless his good purpose and effort of faith by making Zacchaeus worthy of his being called down from the tree by Jesus, regardless of those who questioned his heart?
For this reason, I pray that you become as excited as Zacchaeus just to see Jesus at the Holy Mass. I hope that your heart runs to the front of the nave. I hope that your soul yearns to climb so high that you never miss a glimpse of the Holy Eucharist.
The liturgy of the Holy Mass is the one thing on earth that proposes to powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith through the Holy Eucharist. Through its litany of prayers and confessions, it is the liturgy of the Holy Mass that prepares us to make us worthy of our calling. The Holy Mass that is one unceasing sign from God that He will having mercy, preserve, and Passover His children who turn to Him with humble and contrite hearts.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the liturgy and how the liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the liturgy.