Mass for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C and the annual Wedding Anniversary Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
Readings: Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2; Pslam 144(145):1-2, 8-11, 13b-14; 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 2:2; Luke 19:1-10
Dear sisters and brothers,
Today, we join with many couples who are here to give thanks to God for the gift of marriage, which they have shared with each other and their loved ones. They have sought to emulate the self-sacrificial love of Christ and I am sure they have realised how that effort often runs up against their human limitations. Today is the day to give thanks and to renew our commitment to live with the heart and the pathos of God. Whatever path we walk in our journey of giving and receiving love, we are not meant to be alone. We need community, and it is here that the Church has a key role in supporting us as we strive to build love and in supporting us when our efforts come up short.
The Word of God this Sunday calls us to build a community where relationships are nurtured, and lives are transformed. The message of love, mercy and compassion within God’s vision of communion, solidarity and distributive justice is set against the ruthless, competitive, inhumane, survival-of-the-fittest mindset of the world. We are challenged to stretch the limits of our capacity to love in the way that mirrors the boundless mercy of God himself. Only by living and witnessing to the message of love, mercy and compassion can we be the authentic disciples of Jesus and the voice of conscience for our society.
In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, God is described as all-knowing, all-powerful but also all-loving and all-merciful. God’s greatness does not make him aloof and distant. The God who revealed himself in unapproachable light is also a loving companion and a caring lover of life. God is almighty and yet at the same time vulnerable in his loving mercy to all creatures. The God of our ancestors, even in ancient times, was understood to reveal himself in empathy, compassion and vulnerability.
The Gospel reading further expands the parameters of divine pathos. If in the Old Testament, we see glimpses of the magnanimity with which God acts against the background of primitive human morality, his self-disclosure in Jesus is even more decisive and groundbreaking. With the poor, the lowly and the sinner, Jesus subverts our way. He epitomises the upside-down way or the downward mobility of God, and in so doing he breaks our narrow confines and stereotypes. He challenges us to a new way of seeing, judging and acting in respect of the marginalised and the vulnerable.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector who had signed on with the imperial system of exploitation. He had abandoned his true identity as member of the alternative covenant community. As a result, he was ostracised and rejected by his own people. As far as they were concerned, he was a traitor, and he lost his right to call himself a son of Abraham. Yet against these powerful prejudices, Jesus recognises the dignity of Zacchaeus. Even at the cost of his own reputation, he welcomes the sinner and speaks in favour of him. “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.” The transformation that resulted from his encounter with Jesus has not only benefitted the poor, but has also given him back his true identity.
Jesus was criticised for welcoming tax collectors and sinners. Perhaps that is the cost of love we must not shy from. We are called to practice an ethic of concern, care, support for one another so no one is excluded from the table or left behind; we are challenged to be a community of hospitality, compassion and inclusion. As Jesus reaffirms Zacchaeus’ Abrahamic identity, we must not forget the counter-cultural nature of our faith tradition.
Dear sisters and brothers,
Today, we honour and thank these couples for their commitment to Christian marriage and to the values of the Gospel. As a domestic church and the basic unit of a Christian community, they endeavour to live according to the pattern of the self-emptying God against the culture of self-interest. By their generosity, patience and selflessness, they model the God that Jesus revealed. Their witness in marriage is a sign of hope and renewal of God’s everlasting love to his people.
Wherever we find ourselves in our relationships, let us remember the good news that God is love, and that all God’s grace is now being offered us to find the truth that will set us free. Everyone in this church, whatever our past history, is capable now of loving and receiving love. Knowing that we are not meant to be alone, let us take whatever small steps in order to build and nurture the bonds of love.
Pope Francis has consistently said that the Church is not a museum for saints but a hospital which heals the wounded, strengthens the weak and lifts up the lowly. Our very credibility is at stake when we lack merciful and compassionate love for those who are struggling or are removed and disengaged with the lived reality. Let us endeavour to be the Church where everyone can feel welcomed, forgiven, loved and encouraged to live according to the Gospel.
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