Homily – 31st Sunday, Ordinary Time
Cycle “C” – 2013
Question – How many bureaucrats does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer – TWO! – One to assure us that everything possible is being done.
– The other to screw the light bulb into a water faucet.
If you think about it, it’s not a bad description of parts of our lives: Assuring ourselves that everything possible is being done while screwing the light bulb into the water faucet! It certainly is an apt description of Zacchaeus, the central figure in (tonight’s/this morning’s) gospel.
Zacchaeus was one of the richest men in Israel. He held the position of chief tax collector, he moved in the highest circles, and he had lots of power – lots of it! He was also a crook, a collaborator with Rome (the enemy), and a target of hate for his countrymen. He’d always thought of himself as successful. But suddenly, at the height of his career, it dawned on him that his life wasn’t working. There was a void at the core. There was no joy, and intuitively he understood that there would be no joy as long as he continued along the same path.
Unlike many of us, Zacchaeus knew he had to change! So, when he heard that Jesus was passing through town, he abandoned all dignity and shimmied up a Sycamore tree to make sure he’s see this holy man who just might be able to tell him how to find the joy that was missing in his life!
And the rest is history! Jesus looked into Zacchaeus’s eyes and said, “Let me come over to your house today.” And Jesus came, and Zacchaeus’s life was forever changed. HE FOUND THE JOY FOR WHICH HE SO LONGED!
This story has a very happy ending, and it’s important for us to understand WHY and HOW that happened. The real turning point came even before Jesus offered his invitation. It came when Zacchaeus recognized his need and decided to do something about it!
I’d dare say that every one of us, has parts in his or her life that don’t work; parts that are lifeless and yield no joy. And in many cases, that hasn’t changed for years. — THE REASON IS that we persist in trying to get LIGHT out of a bulb that’s screwed into a water faucet! We keep looking for JOY where it isn’t going to be found!
IF, in those failed parts of our lives, we can speak the HARD TRUTH that Zacchaeus learned to speak, IF we can see something is wrong and has to change – at that very moment we will hear the words that Jesus has been speaking to us all along; words we’ve been drowning out with our self-deceptive assurances that everything’s just fine! — We’ll hear him say, “I want to come to your house this day. I want to live at the center of your life.”
And PLEASE NOTE! Jesus did not tell Zacchaeus that he needs to change his life BEFORE he will come to his house! Jesus accepts Zacchaeus as he is – AND it is this UNCONDITIONAL ACCEPTANCE that prompts Zacchaeus to tell Jesus how he intends to change his life – and it is these changes outlined by Zacchaeus, himself, that bring JOY to his life!
And so it will be for us: FIRST remember that we are unconditionally loved and accepted by Jesus, JUST AS WE ARE…
and THEN, if those parts of our lives that aren’t working for us (those light bulbs that we have screwed into water faucets) … ONCE we are AWARE of Jesus’ unconditional acceptance – his desire to come into our hearts and dwell there – THEN. we, like Zacchaeus can BEGIN (of our own volition) the CHANGE that will bring us the JOY WE LONG FOR!