Were you ever part of a team at the parish, school, hospital or any ministry site or function that made a big new bold pastoral plan? You spend weeks, months making this plan. Then comes the grand roll-out for the plan. The plan makes a good run for a few months or even a whole year. Then the big flop comes. Your plan floats like a Lead Zeppelin, and sooner or later it goes to the big grand plan graveyard! You don’t understand. You added everything up in planning phase, you did all of the research, talked to and sought blessings from all of the key players and gatekeepers. You just don’t understand. How could this happen? I know. I have been there.
In the greater scheme of life, we are not the planners. We as part of God’s creation are the plan. Here is the difference from the above paragraph. God does not give up on us. God does not scrap us when we start malfunctioning. These three readings are a continuum of God’s continuing presence and faith in our lives.
The Wisdom reading highlights that God has mercy on us all. Even though God has the power to scrap plans, God stays with us. In the world that we live in, things and people are discarded when they stop serving a purpose. However, God does not use advantages or power to do this. God’s power prompts us to be better persons, to rise above our lower selves, our darker versions.
Our response to God’s mercy is wrapped up in the 2nd Thessalonians reading. Paul is saying that we are part of God’s plan. Paul wants us to live and exemplify God’s faith and mercy in humanity. Jesus will be glorified in our very human selves. Paul does not explain all in this passage about how that happens. It is just that Jesus will be present in us.
The Gospel simply displays the theology of the first two readings in a story. We might put a lot of assumptions into this story. We might assume that Zacchaeus repented when he brought the Savior home. Maybe Jesus did have a “go and sin no more” talk with Zacchaeus like he did with the woman in John 7:53 – 8:11. We might assume that this is a story of repentance, but we don’t really know that only by looking at the passage. As far as we know from this reading, Jesus wanted only to be present to Zacchaeus. We assume that Jesus’ presence and his presence alone in Zacchaeus’ life would be enough to prompt Zacchaeus from exploiting his fellow Israelites. This is a good assumption.
The Savior’s presence in our lives is all that we need. Like Zacchaeus, we are not going to get scrapped. Our words, our actions, our plans will fail. We are the runners who stumble. We are the mighty Caseys and we strike out. We make plans and scrap them, and then make new ones. However, God is bigger and better than all of that. God is clearly sticking with the plan. Secondly, God’s presence in our lives through the Savior is sufficient for us. We can wrap this all up with words, actions, ideas and plans that we roll out. But we have got to have the Savior with us.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Brother Brian Boyle, C.PP.S., is a hospital chaplain in Northwest Indiana. He is also the associate director of Companions (lay associates) of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.