Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

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.

Homer’s Iliad tells the story of Hera and Zeus neglecting their duties at Troy while they vacationed in Egypt. They wanted to attend a festival in their honor along the Nile River. But, travelling at the speed of thought, they returned when difficulties arose on the Trojan plain.

I was struck by this minor incident in the epic because the ancients seemed as fascinated as we are by cosmic questions: How fast can heavenly creatures travel? At the speed of light or thought? How vast is the universe? Are there other humanoid, sentient creatures among the stars? Today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom ponders the vast universe and God’s majestic rule of it.

In our time physicists claim sovereign knowledge of the Universe and decree that neither religion nor theology can say anything about it. But we do anyway. Their vision lacks color. Because they cannot measure, they cannot see in their physical universe beauty, wonder, generosity, courage or grace. We see these and other marvels everywhere. Indeed a universe without virtue would be incomprehensible; why would anyone study it, much less live there?

Jesus saw wonder when he discovered Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree. What was that prominent tax collector doing up there? In his eagerness to see the Galilean he had apparently forgotten the decorum of his public position.

Zacchaeus, in his turn, was wonder-struck by Jesus’ gracious friendliness. He had perhaps heard that the Christ had come to seek the lost and forsaken but he could not include himself among them. He was comfortable, respected and secure in his future prospects. If he knew men of his profession were despised he didn’t care; he found enough support in his own class. He could not even imagine what he might be missing – until Jesus invited himself to Zacchaeus’ home.

Suddenly his universe was invaded by grace; it was as if the sun had risen over a darkened plain. What had been obscure was revealed; what had seemed fascinating was utterly revolting; and that which lacked all appeal amazed and delighted.

The scriptures often remind me that I should look around with expectation and astonishment. If nothing else my lens-assisted, a-stymatic eyes with those persistent floaters see with such clarity! If God the Father can be pleasantly surprised with his Beloved Son, how much more should we who live in darkness and the shadow of death be delighted by the dawn of grace? God’s people see as God sees; it’s all good; it’s all grace.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.