31st Sunday in Ordinary Time | October 30, 2016
Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
PROTIP: You can take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
A few years ago, I discovered that my youngest brother is terrified of heights.
We were on a trip to Florence, Italy and had made plans to climb to the top of the Duomo, this huge dome on the Cathedral of Florence that gives you an amazing view of the entire city.
As we were in line, my brother began to grow increasingly more anxious. When I asked why, he told me of his fear.
And then he told me that the fear is partially my fault.
It seems that when we were young and visiting NYC, I may or may not have convinced him to walk onto the observation glass of the Empire State’s Building before jumping on it and convincing him we were all going to fall.
I know, I know. I am a terrible older brother.
And what makes it even worse, is that I don’t even remember this happening.
But trust me, I believe my brother.
Because I had to watch the physical effects of his fear as we started the physical ascent.
His breathing grew more ragged, he was sweating profusely, and his body began to shake.
I turned to him and said, Steve we can go back down.
He looked at me with steel in his eyes and said, “No, because then I will miss the view”
My brother reached the summit that morning and gazed upon the city before quickly retreating back down to the safe confines of the ground and a well-earned beer.
But I have never forgotten his determination to face his fear for the sake of the view.
A lesson that I was reminded of as I listened to the Gospel for this weekend.
For in Zacchaeus, I could not help but see echoes of my brother.
For in his decision to climb that tree, he too was facing his fears.
The fear of being noticed. Of being exposed to the withering criticism of his contemporaries. His neighbors.
The fear of being judged, for his collusion with the Roman authorities, for his extortion of his fellow Jews, for his extravagant lifestyle at the expense of the poor.
The fear of being ignored or shunned by the one he so desperately wanted to meet and encounter.
But like my brother, Zacchaeus believed the view was worth the risks, was worth facing his fear.
For in seeing Christ, Zacchaeus was able to see himself clearly for the first time.
He saw that he was still a beloved child of God.
He saw that he was still a part of God’s chosen people.
He saw that he was a sinner, but one who was forgiven.
He saw that he could change.
And so he did.
With that decision to climb the tree and face his fears, Zacchaeus’s entire life was changed.
My friends, each of us must face our own Zacchaeus moments.
Moments in which we too must decide whether or not to go out on a limb for the sake of a new view.
And yes, the risks of such an ascent are real.
We risk having others judge us and criticize us. Mock us and gossip about us.
We risk upsetting the apple cart.
We risk people getting angry with us for having a different perspective, a different vantage point.
We risk the loss of control.
We risk failing and falling.
We risk getting hurt.
But if we dare the climb, we too may be changed by the new view.
We may finally see ourselves as God sees us . . . beloved, broken, beautiful, blessed.
We may see the possibilities that are all around us to build up the kingdom of God . . . to establish God’s reign in which all find justice, peace, and love.
We may see the new pathways prepared for us that will lead us away from our comfortable routines into uncharted and breathtaking new horizons.
We may see that all of our faults and failures were not the final word, but only the beginnings of a new chapter.
We may see that love truly is worth the risk.
My friends, the ascent awaits us.
Let us begin to climb.
May God be Praised.