November 3, 2013 – Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew…” The first reading begins with this statement, which reminds us of the awesome power and presence of God. One of the basic concepts of stewardship as a way of life is that God should be at the center of our lives.
You may recall that the Old Testament Book of Wisdom is also called the Wisdom of Solomon as it is purported to be written and composed by King Solomon. If there is a pattern to the writings, it is one that begins with love and progresses to wisdom. The particular reading for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time accentuates two things about God that we know: God is omnipotent, and God is omnipresent. Because of this fact, it is almost impossible for us to truly conceive of God. We tend to want to put the Lord in human terms, and that is really not possible. It is like the difference between conditional and unconditional love. Stewardship calls us to unconditional love, the same love that God feels for us, but we are limited by human bounds so that, too often, our love has conditions.
While contemplating the Book of Wisdom St. Bonaventure wrote, “God is the cause of everything.” St. Paul has these human limitations in mind as he writes to the Thessalonians in the second reading. Paul prays for those he is writing that they may remain both calm and constant in their faith. Anticipating what it means to live stewardship out, Paul urges the Thessalonians not to be overwhelmed by the power of God, but to reflect it and use it to make their own faith strong. Prayer — constant prayer — is a hallmark of good stewardship.
There are certain Biblical stories that seem to capture our imaginations and imprint our memories and understanding more than others. Jesus’ story about Zacchaeus falls into that category. In today’s Gospel from Luke we learn four notable things about Zacchaeus. First we discover that he is a “chief tax collector.” Next we gather that he is wealthy. Third, we realize that he is short, too short to see Jesus over the crowd. Before we explore the fourth key fact, we need to completely appreciate exactly who Zacchaeus was. As chief tax collector he worked for the Romans. In those times, the Roman rulers would give the tax collectors specific targets for what funds had to be raised. However, the arrangement they had with the tax collectors was that the collectors could keep whatever they raised over the specific objective.
Thus, we know how Zacchaeus became rich — by extorting additional funds from the people. We also come to understand why the tax collectors were despised. This is where the fourth significant fact about Zacchaeus comes into play, and it is this detail that provides Jesus’ reasoning as well as our stewardship thrust. Zacchaeus went through a major conversion. Stewardship involves conversion to a new way of life; a new way of life through the Lord. Zacchaeus sought Jesus, as we must do. It is because of his conversion that Jesus proclaims “salvation has come to this house.” Jesus calls us to stewardship, and He seeks us (“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”). Stewardship is our response to that.