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Sermon on the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Not all conversion stories are created equal. This one from Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, is considered by many as a masterpiece designed to brazenly demonstrate and highlight the extravagant desire of God, “to seek and save the lost,” without which the mission of the church lacks an important dimension. Here’s a well- to- do fellow from Jericho, a CEO at a subprime mortgage lending company, despised by his own for extracting huge interest at small time homebuyers. Let’s just say, he is unhappy with the current state of affairs.

Excited to catch a glimpse of this wandering sensational preacher about to pass by the streets of a prosperous town, his infamous short stature leads him to climb a sycamore tree, bursting out of his shell despite the presence of a huge crowd. He hurried down upon hearing his invitation, stood in front of him, and surprise! “promised to give up half of his riches to the poor and sought restitution to anyone he may have defrauded.” The crowd reacted vehemently against this breach of etiquette that is, to sit at table with folks known as sinners.

I’ve always looked forward to the daily encounter with people, which is, the stuff of Diocesan spirituality. It is a life not confined in the sanctuary of an office or in my cozy bed, although that’s clearly possible. Rather, it is anchored at building relationships, getting to know people on a personal level, understanding their hopes, concerns and dreams, a strategy that can be deceiving, if not eerie.

I’m generally lenient with people and only in rare occasions, will I turn them down. I don’t take them lightly but grace them with a memorable encounter. Conversion is crucial in what I do. Hopefully, it will lead into a cheerful and loving commitment to Christ and the church. It’s not that I’m trying to be nice and likeable and kill them with my sort of, kindness which might result into undermining the authoritative teachings of the church. Instead, my game plan is to immerse myself, engage and discern, with my seemingly inexperienced clinical-pastoral eye, where people are. In fact, if the present understanding of Catholic Priesthood still has to be set apart from the rest of the community, from saints and sinners, from active and practicing to lapsed and rebellious Catholics, whom we are supposed to save, by the grace of God in the life and ministry of Jesus, perhaps, I do not want to be ordained again.

My biggest concern are the Zacchaeus’ of our time, the seekers, those who shop around for churches, who probably have attended almost all worship services in town and still consider themselves Catholics. Their lives are intriguing. They do it for various reasons mostly, dissatisfaction with the service given them by the community. They are spiritual and would love to be religious and I guess, I know what they meant. They are my target. A significant number of these types of baptized Catholics have not reached the level of spiritual and religious maturity. They may have heard the Gospel and yet, haven’t personally met the Jesus in today’s Gospel asking them to come down for “Today, salvation has come to this house, for this man too is a descendant of Abraham,” a fellow Catholic, just like you, a couple of years ago. Amen.

This entry was posted in: Parish


A Filipino Catholic Priest, born and raised in Virac, Catanduanes, Philippines, ordained for the Diocese of Tucson, AZ, eleven years in ministry and counting, Pastor of St. Christopher Catholic Parish, Marana, AZ.

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