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WE ARE NOT OF THE WORLD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Sunday, 31st Sunday of the Year, November 03, 2013
Wis. 11:22-12:2, Ps. 144, 2 Thess. 1:11-2:2, Luke 19:1-10


"And Zachaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold'" (Luke 19:8).


We see here the beginning of the conversion of Zachaeus, who "was a chief tax collector, and rich" (Luke 19:2). Concerning him Jesus said, "Today salvation has come to this house" (Luke 19:9). Why did Jesus say this? What did Zachaeus do?


First of all, Zachaeus showed great interest in Jesus. Although he was a chief tax collector and rich, he nevertheless forgot his human dignity and humbled himself by running ahead and climbing a sycamore tree to see Jesus, because "he was small of stature" (Luke 19:3). Looking up, Jesus saw him in the sycamore tree and rewarded his humility by saying to him, "Zachaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today" (Luke 19:5). "So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully" (Luke 19:6). Then Zachaeus said that he was going to give half of his goods to the poor, and if he had defrauded anyone, he would restore it fourfold. For all these reasons Jesus then exclaimed, "Today salvation has come to this house" (Luke 19:9), for Zachaeus had humbled himself by running and climbing a tree to see Jesus, he joyfully welcomed him into his house, and he promised to give half of his wealth to the poor and to make a fourfold restitution if he had defrauded anyone.


One thing we see here is Jesus' mercy. He does not condemn Zachaeus as a tax collector, but treats him kindly and converts him, for Jesus "came to seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). Indeed, "God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:17). "I did not come to judge the world but to save the world" (John 12:47). "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick ... For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matt. 9:12-13).


The second thing we see here is the generosity of Zachaeus's response to Jesus in humbling himself to see him, in welcoming him into his home, and in promising to give half of his goods to the poor and to make a fourfold restitution to anyone whom he has defrauded. We see in Zachaeus a radical conversion, and he is just now at the first stage of his conversion. But God has mercy on him as he slowly grows in virtue.


We too are called to respond radically and generously to the call and salvation of Jesus. As Jesus entered into Zachaeus's house, so he enters into our heart and life, and he completely changes us so that we too react, as did Zachaeus, forgetting our merely human dignity, as he did in running ahead and climbing a tree, and dispossessing ourselves for the sake of Christ and the poor, as Zachaeus dispossessed himself of half of his goods for the poor. Knowing Jesus and experiencing his salvation radically changes our whole way of life.


We too want to live for Jesus alone and stop serving the riches of the world. After experiencing his salvation in our house, that is, in our heart, we want to live henceforth for him alone as our only master, and stop dividing ourselves between him and worldly riches (Matt. 6:24). We now want Christ to be our only treasure in this world (Matt. 6:19-21). Therefore we begin to live a simple life. So we leave the pleasures and entertainments of the world and the delicacies of the table that divide our heart from a pure love of him alone, and seek henceforth to live only for him.


We respond as did Peter who said, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" (Matt. 19:27). To this generous statement Jesus replied, promising him a hundredfold reward, saying, "Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life" (Matt. 19:29 NKJV). This hundredfold reward is for those who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). It is for those who stop dividing their heart with the riches and goods of this world. It is for those who live a simple life of evangelical poverty.


The hundredfold reward is for those who seek perfection by selling all they have for love of God. Indeed, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Matt. 19:21). This way of perfection is the way of the undivided heart in our love for Jesus, not divided by the riches and pleasures and delights of this world.


This is the life of those who make themselves the last in this world for the love of Christ, for "the last will be first, and the first last" (Matt. 20:16). Those who are the first in the riches and pleasures of this world will be the last with God; while those who are the last in this world because they have divested themselves of all for the love of Jesus will be the first with God.


These are the ones who lose their life in this world to live only for God. They do not try to save themselves by surrounding themselves with the riches and pleasures of the world, "for whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:35).


Such is the simple life. We must hate a worldly life, we must hate our life in a worldly sense, surrounded by the riches and pleasures of this world, for "he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life" (John 12:25).


We are to live a life of self-denial and renunciation of the world with its riches and pleasures that divide our heart from a pure and undivided love only for the Lord, for "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24 NKJV).


Like St. Paul, we are to renounce the world with its riches and say with him, "Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal. 6:14).


So should we live, for we are not of the world, any more than Jesus was of the world. "I have given them thy word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:14). "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15). "Unfaithful creatures! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).


It is much better to live a simple life of evangelical poverty, for "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God ... But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Luke 6:20, 24). The rich have already received their consolation in the riches and pleasures of the world that divide their heart. "So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).

 

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