Sunday, 30 October 2016

31st Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year C

Wisdom 11:22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

The Hubble space telescope might well look with envy on the exquisite focus and clarity of the opening lines of today’s first reading:

In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales, like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground.

Hubble can see size but not significance; it can appreciate magnificence but not meaning - for those we have to turn to God’s revelation in Scripture and Tradition: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gn 1:1); or as the Penny Catechism puts it: Who made the world? God made the world.

Yes, God formed this speck of dust we call earth and then (Hubble could never have discovered this): God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them (Gn 1:27)

More mysterious still is the fact that God loves the world: Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence, for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it. And when he had formed it all: God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good (Gn1:31).

The Hubble telescope, for all its power, can offer us only a lens-full of creation, like a slide under a microscope. In every brilliant colour photo on the NASA website there is always more left out than we can even imagine; each awe-inspiring image, therefore, is, in a sense, also a disappointment.

Fortunately, sacred scripture does not suffer from such human limitations. The lens through which we see the universe in scripture is the very eye of God who does not see only snippets of his creation but he sees the whole in its entirety: God saw all he had made, and indeed it was very good. So also the opening words of our first reading today: In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust... .

In your sight, Lord – here is the power of all scripture in a nutshell because in scripture we see creation, we see reality, the past, present and future, we see others and ourselves – through God’s eyes.

Hubble sees by the light of the stars; we see and we walk by the light of God. To see our human existence on this planet as God sees it; and to live according to our seeing is to have found the precious gift of wisdom; the treasure hidden in the field.

Of those who walk by their own light Cardinal Newman says: they pace round and round in the small circle of their own thoughts and of their own judgments. What a sad picture! May the good Lord preserve us from such futility! And he does!

Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend,
you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned,
so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector, pacing round in a small circle of his own – a collector of gold and silver pieces which, through the eyes of wisdom might as well have been pebbles from the road or shells from the beach. It seems he had heard of Jesus and wanted to see him. So, interestingly, having no telescope, he climbed a tree to get a better look.

This first response to Jesus did not go unnoticed by him and so he made the next move, he ‘looked up and spoke to him’. Zacchaeus responded and ‘hurried down’ and in the sudden joy which came upon him welcomed the Lord and repented of his sins.

Ah, yes, Lord, it is true: Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend; and: Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence; because, as you say of Zacchaeus: this man too is a son of Abraham.

Is it not incomprehensible that the God of the universe in whose sight: the whole world is like a grain of dust; should find it in his merciful heart to occupy himself not only with us humans who populate this grain of dust, but with the least of us, the sinner, and show him such infinite, loving tenderness, that he is moved to surrender to God his whole life?

There can be only one answer to this mystery, the answer given by the reading from Wisdom today: You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life, you whose imperishable spirit is in all.

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