(31st Ordinary Sunday: Wis. 11:22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10)
As we read and reflected on this weekend’s scripture readings, the word encounter kept surfacing.
This is obvious in the gospel story of Jesus and Zacchaeus. In the second reading, Paul and his companions Silvanus and Timothy wrote, “We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling.” In both instances, the Lord took the initiative.
The first reading doesn’t mention individuals, but the dynamic is the same. “You have mercy on all,… you love all things that are,… you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!”
Who are we compared to God? Yet God still desires to have an encounter with us.
In the gospel, Zacchaeus hoped to see the famous Jesus pass by. So he did what he had to do. Put yourself in his sandals. Would you have been curious enough? Would you have been willing to deal with the crowds, especially being so well known in the town?
Jesus also wanted to see Zacchaeus, but for a very different reason. Zacchaeus could never have imagined that Jesus would actually invite himself to stay in his house, the house—as the murmuring crowd pointed out—of a sinner! But Jesus sought him out, because he wanted an encounter. This was no chance event. Jesus’ purpose was achieved: “Today salvation has come to this house.”
Maximin and Mélanie did not expect to see a Beautiful Lady on that Saturday afternoon in September 1846. She sought them out to sound a warning to her people, to remind them of sin and the necessity of abandoning wickedness, and the need for conversion.
As members of the greater La Salette community, our encounter with the weeping Mother has transformed us, but from time to time we may need to ask: do we still hear the rebuke? Do we still need the warning?
There’s no reason to fear these questions. After all, the whole of Mary’s message was prefaced by, “Come closer, my children, don’t be afraid.” No harm, but only good will come of this encounter.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse