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31st SUNDAY -C- October 30, 2016

Wisdom 11: 22-12:2; Psalm 145; 2 Thessalonians 1: 11-22; Luke 19: 1-10

by Jude Siciliano, OP

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Dear Preachers:



Sunday in



PRE-NOTE: Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions" the parishioners of St. Peter Parish in Memphis, Tennessee.

Luke’s story of the encounter between Zacchaeus and Jesus begins by setting up the tax collector as the "bad guy." He collected taxes for the Roman occupiers. Since tax collectors worked on a commission he had plenty of opportunity to cheat, as was common among tax collectors. To make matters worse, he was a "chief tax collector." He is the bad guy all right and no body would like him. He is unacceptable to his own people and we modern readers have no initial reason to like him either.

Still, there is a note of hope for the man since Jesus identifies him as "a descendent of Abraham." While we might have given up on such a villain Zacchaeus, by birth, is a member of God’s people and God made promises to the Jewish people to rescue them, not only from their oppressors, but from their sin. In Jesus God has set out to save the world – beginning with the Jews. Zacchaeus is an example of how far God is willing to reach to bring the chosen people to God’s renewing embrace – reaching as far as Zacchaeus, the outcast and least among the Jews.

The gospel stories may appear different on the surface, but they repeat a similar theme. The story of Zacchaeus is similar to the one we heard last month of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to look for the lost one in the desert; or the diligent woman who sweeps her house looking for her lost coin (Luke 15:1-10). In Zacchaeus Jesus affirms what the "lost and found parables" tell about God: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost." Or again, last week we heard the parable of the penitent tax collector in the temple whom Jesus said was "justified," i.e. put right with God.

Saving the sinners; searching out and finding the lost; setting people right with God – it is a repetitious theme, isn’t it? It is summed up by Jesus again today, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost." Which is a summary of the entire gospel and each and every gospel narrative.

The prophets had encouraged the downhearted Jewish people to await "the Day of the Lord," when God would come to rescue them. Jesus’ ministry suggests that Day had arrived, when he says to Zacchaeus, "Today salvation has come to this house…." Zacchaeus responded appropriately to God’s initiative by welcoming and opening his home to Jesus. At table with Jesus he and his entire household have a foretaste of the banquet God has prepared for each of us.

When the gift is given Zacchaeus responds enthusiastically, doing what those who experience salvation do, sharing his possessions with the poor and setting his life right with anyone he has cheated. Concern for the poor, right relationship with others – signs indeed that salvation has come to the home of Zacchaeus, a child of Abraham remembered by God, who has searched and found the lost.

Once again we see the dynamics of the gospel working. Zacchaeus doesn’t give his money to the poor to earn his salvation. Rather, the gift of new life is given him and he reflects the gift of that life by his exceeding generosity to those in need. His generosity doesn’t have the note of a sacrifice he must do, but of a spontaneous act of joy, reflecting the gift he has received. Too bad the wealthy official in the previous story (18:18-23) didn’t take the opportunity Jesus was offering him. Instead, his wealth got in his way and blinded him to Jesus’ offer, so he turned away sad. While Zacchaeus received Jesus "with joy."

Which makes us wonder. What am I not willing to let go of or change as I respond to the daily presence of Jesus in my life? I claim to believe in him, but has that made a significant difference in how I live; whom I respond to in their need; what my priorities are, etc.? Zacchaeus was willing to put aside whatever might separate him from the fullness of life Jesus was giving him.

The numbers are a clue to Zacchaeus’ exuberant response to Jesus. Leviticus (6:5) required that if a person admitted they had defrauded anyone they must pay back the amount, plus 20%. Zacchaeus offers to do more than he was required, "If I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over." Zacchaeus recognized what happened and Jesus puts his stamp of approval on his response, "Today salvation has come to this house…." And isn’t that true? When a member of the family turns around their life, all benefit. Jesus proclaims that he has come, "to seek and save what was lost." He found Zacchaeus out on a limb. What about us? Where are we? Shall we invite Jesus to come and gift us with the saving gift we need now?

In a local Walmart the "Returns Department" is near the main entrance. There is always a line of people holding the items that want to return and their purchase receipts. The "Lost and Found" department isn’t as easy to find. It’s downstairs in the back corner of the store. On the shelves are items that, for the most part, people don’t care enough about to claim. There are baby bottles, umbrellas, old school books, broken baby strollers, backpacks, water bottles etc. People are busy and don’t seem to have time, or enough interest, to search and claim their lost items. The rejected and used items sit there till their time is up. Then they are gathered and tossed into the scrap bin in the back of the store to be hauled off to some landfill.

Notice what Jesus has been doing. Telling "lost and found" parables and searching out the loss to claim them for his own. He’s gone downstairs to the back of the store, to the "Lost and Found Department" and found Zacchaeus on the back, unwanted shelf and claimed him for his own. He is a child of Abraham and Jesus restores him to the dignity his way of life has lessened and others have denied him. Today Jesus might say it this way, "For the Son of Man has gone down to the "Lost and Found Department" to seek, find and save what was lost."

It requires quite an effort on Jesus’ part because what he does for Zacchaeus will be one more occasion on his way to Jerusalem that he offends the righteous, as they grumble, "He has gone to the house of a sinner."

Jesus comes to our "Lost and Found Department." He wants to come to the lost and confused parts of our lives. The parts we cover up and want to forget. Indeed, he wants to make a home with us in the very places we have closed up and locked away. He knocks and invites us to let him in to change what we have given up on; to bring out into the light the broken and discarded parts that need healing and forgiveness. He wants to say to us what he said to Zacchaeus, "Today I must stay at your house."

Shall we, with Zacchaeus and one another welcome him in his word and in the bread and wine? Shall we make a permanent home for him? As we do that he says once again to us what he said to Zacchaeus, "Today salvation has come to this house."

Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:


Every parting gives a foretaste of death;

every coming together again a foretaste of the Resurrection

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)



The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.

-Psalm 145: 14

As I am writing this article, Hurricane Matthew has passed out to sea after leaving a path of havoc and flooding here in North Carolina and along the southeastern coast of the U.S. But our troubles pale in comparison to what has happened in Haiti again. The hurricane may have reduced the southwestern side of Haiti to rubble and mud but poverty is the disease that weakens and afflicts the population. Houses made of tin collapse, lack of clean water and infrastructure bring cholera, and malnutrition is a fact of life in Haiti. At least two of our parishioners, Jay Butler and Kathy Dow, have made trips to Haiti in past years and have brought back stories and photos of the dire straits Haitians face on a daily basis as well as memories of the resiliency and good nature of our island brothers and sisters.

Trees for the Future reports: "Once known as "The Pearl of the Antilles," Haiti is now one of the poorest and most environmentally degraded countries in the Western Hemisphere. Less than two percent of its original forests remain, the result of a long history of unsustainable land use practices and a continuing dependence on trees for fuel. Deforestation is causing a decline in soil fertility, extensive flooding, and depleted groundwater supplies. . .Much of the land can no longer support human life. More than 80% of Haitians live in poverty, more than 50 percent in abject poverty. . .two-thirds of people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods." Trees for the Future has worked in Haiti since early 2002, focusing their program on working with local farmers and farming groups to plant trees in order to reforest degraded hillsides and produce sustainable sources of fuel, construction materials, and food.

List of Partnering Organizations: Ayiti Gouvenans (AG), Northwest region, Biocarburants d'Haiti, Cabaret, HOPE (Haitians Overcoming Poverty Everyday), Leogane, Lambi Fund of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, Rural Haiti Project,Gros-Morne, St. Boniface Haiti Foundation/RATRAP, Fond-des-Blancs, Timberland, USA, University of South Florida, USA, VIVA Haiti, Gros-Morne, Yéle Haiti, Arcadine Coast, also, a program in Medor in partnership with Our Lady Queen of Peace, a Catholic church in Arlington, VA (Charity Navigator rating of 87.52%)

As we recover from Hurricane Matthew and turn our attention back to our everyday lives, let us be changed to include concern for those in Haiti. If you would like to plant a tree there, check out . If you would like to do more as a parish effort, let me know at: Let us lift up Haiti!

----Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS

Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries

Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.


Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.

From today’s Gospel reading:

Jesus looked up and said to Zacchaeus:

"Zacchaeus, come down quickly,

for today I must stay at your house."


Jesus wants to come to the lost and confused parts of our lives. The parts we cover up and want to forget. Indeed, as he did with Zacchaeus, he wants to make a home with us in the very places we have closed up and locked away.

So we ask ourselves:

  • Jesus found Zacchaeus out on a limb. What about us? Where are we? Shall we invite him to come and gift us with the renewing gift of salvation he offered Zacchaeus?


"The use of the death penalty cannot really be mended. It should be ended."
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.

Please write to:

  • Linwood E. Forte #0133102 (On death row since 10/8/03)
  • Scott D. Allen #0005091 (11/18/03)
  • Terrance R. Elliott #0120236 (12/18/03)

----Central Prison - 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic Mobilizing Network:


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If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.

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(These CDs have been updated twice in the last five years.)

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Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.

4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.

Thank you and blessings on your preaching,

fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

St. Albert Priory

3150 Vince Hagan Drive

Irving, Texas 75062-4736



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