My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As probably you know, I just came back from a pilgrimage. It was a wonderful pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was my first visit to the Holy Land and I went with 320 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. So it was a wonderful trip, it was really amazing. Just to be able to pray in the places where Jesus taught and performed his miracles, to walk the same roads, even just to look up at the same sky.
That beautiful moment of the celebration of Mass at the Holy Sepulcher was — the whole thing — very special for all of us. And I want to thank all of you for your prayers for us in that pilgrimage.
After that, I went from the Holy Land to Rome. And that was also very special because I had the privilege of meeting with our Holy Father Pope Francis. He granted me an audience, so we spent some time together talking. And I wanted to see him because I wanted to talk to him about all of you. All the people in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. I wanted him to know that we love him and that we pray for him and that we are very very active in practicing our faith in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. And the Holy Father asked me to thank you for your prayers for him and he also sent his apostolic blessing for all of you and your families and all of the faithful in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
I have to say that it was a very special time for me. When you are with him, you feel a great sense of peace and comfortness. So, let us continue to pray for him everyday, asking God that continues to bless him and his ministry in the universal Church.
And as you know, the Church just celebrated in the past two days, first the Solemnity of All Saints on Friday and then yesterday the Commemoration of All Souls. Every year we start the month of November with these beautiful celebrations.
And these celebrations remind us that we are made for heaven. That we are called to be saints. To be holy. And my brothers and sisters, that’s the secret of life!
People look around trying to find out what life means. They try so many things. But the truth is right here, in front of us. We are made to be saints, to go to heaven. All of us, not just some of us, because we all have a vocation, a calling to be saints. But saints are in heaven, so we are really called to go to heaven, and that’s the goal. That must be the goal of our life. That’s what we should be waiting for because we want to see and follow Jesus. We want to be good friends with him.
And that’s exactly the lesson in the story of Zacchaeus that we heard in today’s Gospel. And the three reading that we had today are examples to reflect on God’s mercy and love.
But especially the passage of the Gospel. It’s a beautiful scene that can help us to understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It’s an interesting scene of the Gospel, that you know well.
Jesus is passing through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem — and the town is filled with people who are trying to see him. One of those people is Zacchaeus, who is a rich man and the leading tax collector.
As we all know, tax collectors in the time of Jesus were despised and considered public “sinners” — because they worked for the Roman Empire and because a lot of them were not really honest people.
So even though Zacchaeus considered a sinner, not a good man — he still has this deep desire to see who Jesus was. And he’s willing to do anything — just to get a glimpse of Jesus. As we heard, he is short so he had a hard time trying to see him because there were so many people over there. But he wants to see Jesus so bad that he runs ahead of all the crowds and he climbs up into a tree! A sycamore tree.
An interesting picture, isn’t it? There is this man, who is short of stature, who is considered a bad person, and then all of the sudden, he is up in the tree waiting for Jesus.But it is the picture that challenges us. We have to ask ourselves: How hard do we work to see Jesus — how hard do we work to find him in the in our daily lives, as busy as we are? What efforts do we make to try to remember that we are always in Jesus’ presence?
So Zacchaeus gives us a beautiful example of how we have to put all of effort in trying to see Jesus and be with him. so do we have the same courage as Zacchaeus? Even sometimes because probably people were looking at him thinking he went crazy, ‘what is he doing,’ ‘he’s out of his mind.’
Sometimes people will say about us because we are looking to see Jesus. Because we want to be with him, they may say that we are also out of our minds. Are we willing to allow people, or to be considered, because we have that same desire, strong desire to be disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We are and today we have to especially ask for the grace to always be as humble as Zacchaeus and as daring as he was. Because we know that Jesus Christ is perfect God and perfect Man. We know how much he loves us. And we know how much we love him.
But then Zacchaeus was there, people thinking ‘what is he doing’ and then Jesus calls him. To Zacchaeus’ surprised, Jesus looks at him, surprises him, and asked him, “Zacchaeus
Come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house!
Incredible! That man, who was considered a sinner, that everyone was thinking that he was crazy, and Jesus stops, looks up at him, and calls him by his name! And then Jesus wants to go to his house.
God’s mercy is amazing! God doesn’t leave anyone out! His mercy is for everyone. No matter who it is, no matter how bad or confused. No matter how far someone has fallen from God. God is rich in mercy, and he is waiting for sinners to come home, to repent.
Jesus is always surprising us. So he is surprising us with beautiful surprises in our lives, as you all know. So today as we pray for that strong desire to be with Jesus as Zacchaeus had, let us especially also ask for the grace to be open to the grace of God, to God’s surprises and always say yes to what God is asking us to do.
It’s amazing if you think about it, that Jesus wanted to go to Zacchaeus’ house and have dinner with him. It was a nice dinner, wasn’t it? Jesus wants to be with us all the time. Every single day of our lives. He wants to be in our house, in our hearts, he wants to have dinner with us. We come to the Eucharist to be with our Lord Jesus Christ. Those are the surprises that are out there and that God is giving to us. So let us ask for that grace, to really be open to God’s surprises.
And finally, at the same time, we also have to feel the call to go out and to bring people in front of Jesus, to God’s mercy, that they can come back, have a conversion and become also committed to what we strive for — holiness.
That Jesus is calling us to walk with our friends and our families. He’s calling us to be tender and merciful just as he was with Zacchaeus. We need to be patient just as Jesus is. Because true love is always patient.
It is a challenge for us, it is not easy to be patient with other people. Jesus was very patient with Zacchaeus, and we have to trust God. As St. Paul says in today’s second reading, “God will bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith.
So let’s pray today for the grace of always looking for Jesus. Allowing him to be in our hearts, in our homes. And let us pray for the grace to help others to meet Jesus. Let’s pray to be joyful witnesses and to share our joy with others. Let’s strive especially this week to show God’s mercy and love to someone in our lives.
And let us pray to the Mary our Blessed Mother. May she help us to have the desire that Zacchaeus had — the desire to see Jesus and to change our lives so that we can follow him with joy and love, and share his mercy with others!
1. Readings (Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C): Wisd. 11:22-12:2; Ps. 145:1-2, 8-11, 13-14; 2 Thess. 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10.