Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

God has a particular love for small things. In the first reading, all creation is described as being like “grain from a balance” or “a drop of morning dew” to God. Yet He still has a particular love, not just for creation as a whole, but for each part of creation—only a part of a grain. In today’s gospel, we likewise see God’s love of small things. Zacchaeus is small both literally (as one who is “short in stature”) and morally (as a tax collector for the Romans). His initial way of drawing closer to Jesus was even fairly small—without making a fuss, he climbed a tree, as children have been doing for centuries. But of all the individuals in the city of Jericho, Zacchaeus was the one whom Jesus asked to dine with.

Jesus’ invitation to Zacchaeus shocked many. They were perhaps hoping that Jesus was the sort who liked bigger things—grander gestures, or individuals with greater moral fiber. But if they sought such a person, they were not seeking Jesus. This is a helpful reminder in our own relationship with God. In any friendship, we know the people we relate with. We know their tendencies, their strengths, and their preferences. If you ask a friend with crippling shyness to take over your speaking engagement, or a non-medical friend for advice on your child’s illness, they might respond (rightly) that you’ve got the wrong person, and are really looking for someone else. So too with God. We may want Him to respond to our prayers with a grand and clear sign, but if that is the only type of response we will accept from Him, He might simply say “I’m sorry, you’ve got the wrong person, and are really looking for someone else.”

This does not negate the grand gesture, the great undertaking for God’s glory. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius provides the contemplation of the Call of the King, where we are invited by Jesus to win over the whole world for the Father. Zacchaeus himself pledges half his wealth to the poor, and to repay all those whom he has extorted four times over. Jesus responds to this grand gesture by saying that “today salvation has come to this house.” For any grand gesture to bear fruit in the next world, however, it must have a small beginning. No matter what will be done, any great undertaking must begin with the same two words: “yes, Lord.”

November 3rd, 2013