Sunday, 30 October 2016
Joy of Meeting Jesus, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Today I’d like us to consider the most striking effect of meeting the Lord Jesus.
It may be that you’ve never directly considered what is the most noticeable CHANGE that can be seen in people who have met the Lord, but we just heard a clear example in that Gospel passage, and it is a theme that Pope Francis writes and speaks about frequently:
“JOY … fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus”(Evangelii Gaudium n.1).
Zacchaeus, as we just heard, welcomed the Lord “joyfully” (Lk 19:6) into his house.
We might also note Zaccaheus’s behavior before and after meeting the Lord Jesus:
Before, we can sense his eagerness:
He was “anxious”(19:3) to see Him, he “ran ahead”(19:4), and “climbed a tree”, and he disregarded the manner in which other people sought to out him off.
After, we can sense the change that meeting the Lord caused in him:
He changed his life, dramatically: he gave half his money to the poor and repaid fourfold all those he had cheated (19:8).
And the Lord declared, “today salvation has come to this house”(Lk 19:9).
Joy and Salvation -Pope Francis writes about how these two things go together.
In the Old Testament, when salvation was promised, when a Messiah was promised who would bring salvation, it was repeatedly said He would bring “joy” (Evangelii Gaudium n.4).
In the Gospels, as we heard one example today, this is exactly what happened. People met the Lord, and it brought joy to them.
Of course, this joy is not automatic:
Some people rejected or ignored the Lord. We might note that the Pharisees and Sadducees who rejected the Lord are never described as joyful.
We night note also the classic example of the rich young man: he went away “sad”(Mk 10:22) because he refused to change his life to follow the Lord.
But, for those who will choose to accept Him and follow Him and, unlike the rich young man, do what is required of those are to follow Him,
What is it about the Lord that brings joy? Let me note two things:
We all want to be loved, and we rejoice when we experience that we are loved. The Lord Jesus was full of joy Himself because He always rejoiced in being loved by the Father, being His “Son, the Beloved”(Mk 1:11; 9:7). (c.f. Paul VI, Gaudete in Domino n.iii, my Pentecost sermon 2015). And those who met the Lord met One who loved them more fully than anyone else they had known before -so it is hardly to be wondered at that they experienced joy.
Second, salvation for the “lost”.
We just heard the Lord say that He had come to “save what was lost”(Lk 19:10).
The primary sense of this concerns being lost in sin. And the outcast sinners rejoiced because they experienced salvation for them, the “lost”, salvation in repentence and forgiveness.
There is secondary, more modern sense of “lost” and being saved, and it concerns finding meaning and purpose in life. We live in an age when many have no sense of purpose or direction or meaning, and to experience purpose when you have no purpose is to experience a reason to rejoice. And to encounter someone who sees the potential in you and gives you that purpose is as much a reason to rejoice today as it was for Zacchaeus 2000 years ago.
In summary, meeting the Lord brought “joy” to Zacchaeus as he experienced being sought out, being loved, being saved.
If we would have that same experience then we must constantly renew in ourselves what was visible in Zacchaeus: He knew Jesus offered something more, he sought Him out with energy, he repented of his sin, and “salvation came to this house”(Lk 19:9).