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Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

The Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.

The Word This Week

There is a subversive humour in today’s Gospel which turns upside down the conventions of everyday life: we see a senior tax official climbing up a tree for a glimpse of Jesus, and the faintly ridiculous scene where Jesus stops, looks into the branches of the sycamore and says, “Zacchaeus, come down!” Did Zacchaeus worry about what people thought? The rest of the story shows that he did not. It would be easy to laugh at little Zacchaeus – and people in the town probably did, in between muttering about his extortionate taxes. And yet he has understood the message of God more clearly than others: he reveals the meaning of the first reading, since he understands that God is gentle, merciful and loving. Jesus corrects him, “little by little…so that he may abstain from evil and trust in the Lord.”

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2

We talk about the different “styles” of scripture reading – stories, poems, descriptions, speeches. This passage is a piece of elegiac poetry – a musing, or reflecting on the nature of God. It is prayerful – full of pauses and rhetorical questions. The reader should try to reflect this in the way in which the passage is read. Normally you read to the congregation: today there is a sense in which you read for the congregation – allowing this to be a prayer which floats around and from the church. It is your pauses which will carry this more than anything: allow time for ideas to sink in. Don’t read slowly – sometimes that just makes it difficult to follow. Read reflectively. Try to understand the background to the reading: God is so great and mighty, and yet is so loving and forgiving! Save a special tone of gentleness for the last three lines.


Second Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 2:2

We move on to a different letter of Saint Paul this week. This is a “follow-up” to his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, in which he wants to make certain things clear for the sake of the faithful there. He begins with a formal introductory prayer, as in many of his letters – this is to encourage the people, and is offered to us for the same reason. Then, rather abruptly, Paul gets “down to business”; his first point is all about the end of the world, the Second Coming: the early church was convinced that this would happen in their lifetime, and Paul warns them not to “…get excited too soon…” The day will come when it comes. Even in our own day and age there are those who get overexcited at the thought of the end of time: allow Paul’s down to earth advice to speak to our day too.


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