YEAR C: HOMILY/REFLECTION FOR THE 31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
TOPIC: UNITY and SOLIDARITY
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Lk 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus the Tax Collector
Message #259: “Love One Another”
(TO THE PRIESTS, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, Marian Movement of Priests)
- The Marian Message: Unity, the Fruit of Love
a) The most important and concrete fruit of love is unity. Love always unites. (Use the example of man and woman united in marriage: 1+1=1). On the other hand, the enemy of love, selfishness, always divides. (read letter d).
b) The most certain proof of the presence of love is unity. And when there is love, there is God: “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” (1 John 4:12).
c) There are cases when people are united, but there is neither love nor God (as in revolutions, wars, terrorism, uprising, mass protests and rallies). Such unity is fueled by selfishness and arrogance. No matter how noble the intentions are, this is always destructive and divisive. This is the work of the devil. (Read letter e). That is why the Blessed Mother gives another important element to our unity: not only in love but also in prayer. (Read letter c).
d) Mary invites us to come to her united in love and prayer (letters f and g). She invites us to come to her “in procession”, not in isolation, not in division (letter i). This is something we must look into our BEC’s. Hindi tayo dapat nagkakanya-kanya. Dapat sama-sama, nagkakaisa at nagtutulungan. Iyan ang ninanais ni Mama Mary na mangyari sa atin.
e) This is the reason why Mary demands that we multiply cenacles of prayer. We come to Mary in small groups, united in love and prayer through cenacles. All our devotional practices, such as the Rosary, Dawn Procession, novenas, Precious Blood, Divine Mercy, etc. are supposed to have this same spirit. We should invite the others to join us. We should never get tired of inviting and encouraging them to come and join. It is Mary inviting them through us.
f) Mary’s invitation will always bring us all together to Jesus in the Eucharist. This is true Marian devotion. St. Louis de Montfort is reported to have said, “Devotion to Mary that does not lead us to Jesus is from the devil.”
- The Greatest Commandment
a) Jesus gave us the new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is a commandment that we must obey in order to be considered followers of Jesus and children of God. The model and basis of our love for one another is the love of Jesus for us: self-sacrificing and universal love.
b) Jesus knew that the real enemy of love is selfishness. In order to truly love, one has to purify himself of all forms of selfishness. That is why love should be self-sacrificing, like the love of Jesus. We already know how to do it: love of mother to her child; love of father for his own family (as in the OFW’s); a husband faithfully and lovingly caring for a disabled or terminally ill wife; a son taking care for a bedridden parent.
c) Our love, in order to be like that of Jesus, must not only be self-sacrificing, but also universal: for everybody, even our enemies. This is what is really difficult. It is possible to undergo sacrifices in order to love and care for a mother, or a spouse. But how is it possible for us to express our self-sacrificing love for people whom we do not know; for people who are our enemies?
d) Jesus knew the difficulty of this commandment. But he gave us His own example to follow. He has the right to demand from us because He was the one who did it first: he died on the cross for us sinners. Jesus does not give a command or teaching that He himself does not practice. (This is one point for reflection. If we are leaders, we should lead by example. We cannot expect our members to follow us if we do not do what we teach and command.)
- Relation to the Gospel
The Gospel is about Zacchaeus, a tax collector. He is considered a public sinner. He was successful and rich. Yet he was not happy, for he was hated by the people. He lived in isolation. His position on top of the tree is the perfect illustration of his real situation. It is so lonely up there. His isolation, loneliness and feeling of rejection are caused by his selfishness, the root cause of sin. Love was something totally alien to him.
He longed, therefore, to have a happy and meaningful life. When Jesus saw him, he told him, “Zacchaeus, get down from the tree.” It was an invitation to turn away from his pride and to leave his life of isolation and selfishness. When he obeyed the Lord’s command, his process of conversion began. His conversion was completed with his promise to amend his life and repay four-fold those whom he unjustly treated.
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The story of Zacchaeus should inspire us to do likewise. We are all sinners. We should realize that sin cuts us off from God and from one another. It always results in isolation as we give in to our selfishness. The only way to regain happiness and peace in life is to follow the commandment of love. It is love that reconnects us with God and with each other.
Zacchaeus gives us the important steps to conversion: 1. acknowledge our sinfulness; 2. return to the Lord and encounter Him through the sacraments, esp. Penance and Eucharist (Jesus dined with him – an indication of the Eucharist); 3. amend our lives (resolution and restitution: resolve to rectify ourselves, repair and repay the damage done).
Great sinner that he was, Zacchaeus was granted God’s forgiveness and new life. We can say he is now in heaven, though his name is not in the Roman calendar. We can also become saints. Perhaps for many of us we may have to undergo the purification in Purgatory. But the important thing is, by the grace and mercy of God, we are assured that, if we faithfully follow Jesus in this world, we will become saints: maybe not with capital S; small s is enough. That’s we are aiming for. That’s what we hope and pray for.
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