33Rd WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
Psalter: Week 4 / (White)
Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Ps 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
The Lord upholds me.
1st Reading: 2 Mac 6:18-31
Eleazar, one of the prominent teachers of the Law, already old and of noble appearance, was forced to open his mouth to eat the flesh of a pig. But he preferred to die honorably than to live in disgrace, and voluntarily came to the place where they beat him to death. He spat out bravely the piece of meat, as should be done by those who do not want to do things prohibited by the law, even to save their life.
Those in charge of this impious banquet took him aside, since they had known him for a long time, and tried to convince him to pretend to be eating the meat, but in reality, to eat something allowed by the law and prepared by himself. In this way, he could escape death, and be treated with humanity for the sake of their long-time friendship.
But he preferred to make a noble decision worthy of his age, of his noble years, of his shining white hair, and of the irreproachable life he had led from childhood. Above all, showing respect for the holy laws established by God, he answered that he would rather be sent to the place of the dead. And he added, “It would be unworthy to pretend at our age, and to lead many young people to suppose that I, at ninety years, have gone over to the pagan customs. If I led them astray for the sake of this short life I would bring disgrace to my old age. Even if I could now be saved from mortals, I cannot—whether living or dead—escape from the hands of the Almighty. I prefer to bravely sacrifice my life now, as befits my old age. So I shall leave an excellent example to the young, dying voluntarily and valiantly for the sacred and holy laws.”
Having said this, he gave himself over to death.
Those who escorted him considered his words foolishness, so their previous gentleness turned into harshness.
When he was almost at the point of death, he said groaning, “The Holy Lord, who sees all, knows that though I could have saved myself from death, I now endure terrible sufferings in my body. But in my soul, I suffer gladly because of the respect I have for him.” In his death, he left a noble example and a memorial of virtue and strength, not only to the young but to the whole nation.
Gospel: Lk 19:1-10
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man named Zaccheus lived there. He was a tax collector and a wealthy man. He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see him because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there he would be able to see Jesus, who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must stay at your house today.“ So Zaccheus climbed down and received him joyfully.
All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house of a sinner.“ But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.“ Looking at him Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.“
Being of small stature, Zaccheus had difficulty in seeing Jesus as He passed by because of the crowd. The crowd hindered him from seeing Jesus. But the sycamore tree became instrumental in helping him to see Jesus. He climbed a sycamore tree which was along Jesus‘ route and Jesus noticed and told him to come down because he would be staying at his house. That was the beginning of his conversion.
Zaccheus represents those people who want to come to Jesus but because of their physical, social or spiritual condition they could not just do so. The crowd represents those people who, instead of helping others, would discourage or hinder them from encountering Jesus. The sycamore tree represents those kind hearted people who go out of their way and extend help so that the Zaccheuses in our midst may have opportunity to encounter and experience the Lord in their lives. They can be our friends, our spiritual directors, our teachers or our parish priests who guide and lead us the way to come to Jesus and be converted.
From among these three groups, where do we belong? Do we consider ourselves like Zaccheus who needed help to see the Lord? Or are we like the crowd who discourages and hinders people from coming to Jesus? Or are we like the sycamore tree willing to offer help so that others can encounter the Lord? Let us be a “sycamore tree“ and not a “crowd“ to others!
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Biblical Texts are taken from Christian Community Bible, Catholic Pastoral Edition (57th Edition) The New English Translation for the ROMAN MISSAL
With permission from the EPISCOPAL COMMISION ON LITURGY of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
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