Astonished Gratitude

(Homily for Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

Even though Tuesday is Election Day, I do not plan on focusing on political issues - except to encourage you to vote. I imagine most of you have made up your minds anyway and not much of what I say could make a difference. (If you haven't yet made up your mind, especially about about "minor" offices, you can get information on candidate's stands on key moral issues at: In the future, when emotions are not so high, we will have time to reflect faithfully on the great issues that we face.

Moreover, the Archdiocese has set aside this day for a special purpose: Education Sunday for Parish Stewardship. Usually Education Sunday is the first weekend of November, but it has been advanced one week because today's Gospel offers a perfect opportunity to address the deeper meaning of Stewardship. It tells about the astonished gratitude of a man touched by Jesus - and how he made a most generous response to God's gift.

Zacchaeus, in spite of his wealth, was a very unhappy man. His job as a tax collector made decent people despise him. He was an outcast. Because of his short stature (and no doubt his fear of mingling with a crowd) he had to climb a small tree in order to see Jesus. To the little man's amazement Jesus calls him down and tells him, “I must stay at your house.” Jesus explains why he invites himself to such an unlikely home - he has come to seek and save the lost.

Zacchaeus’ amazed gratitude triggers an exuberant response, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor.” He also admits having defrauded others and resolves to make amends. Here we see the essence of stewardship: gratitude, humility, generosity.

I wonder if we recognize the gifts God has given us, especially the great gift of Jesus’ saving love. At the International Eucharistic Congress, Cardinal Ricardo Vidal told a touching story about a priest who recognized that unparalleled gift. A young priest from Cebu attended the 1995 papal Mass in Manila. The Mass was most impressive – some five million people, the largest single gathering of human beings, ever.* Participating in this event deeply moved the young priest, but at the end of Mass he had an even more overwhelming experience. He realized the Mass he celebrates in his small village is the same Mass – the same Jesus truly present in the Eucharist.

Do we appreciate that greatest of all gifts – Jesus’ real and saving presence in the Eucharist? If so, like Zacchaeus, we cannot help but respond with humility and generosity. Lord, all that I possess – my energy, my time, my health, my abilities, my opportunities, my relationships, my finances – they are really not mine. It all comes from you. And you have given me a gift which excels everything else – your desire to come to me and stay with me. Help me, like Zacchaeus, to forget about myself and to respond to you with generosity.


*"at the World Youth Day in Manila, Phillipines, a world record was set as the largest crowd in human history gathered for the final Papal Mass: 'A Japanese company, using overhead photography to calculate the number of persons per acre, estimated a minimum of 5 million people and suggested that there may have been as many as 7 million.'" (George Weigel, 1999, "Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II", p. 750) See: World Youth Day Frequently Asked Questions

Spanish Version

From Archives (31st Sunday, Year C):

2013: How to Pray, Part Four: Self-Emptying
2010: Salvation
2007: A Little Man With a Lot to Teach Us
2004: Astonished Gratitude
2001: An Ocean of Mercy

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Audio Files of Homilies (MP3)

Evidence for God's Existence from Modern Physics (MP3 Audio File)

Bulletin (Our Lord of the Miracles, Separation of Church and State, Non-Negotiable Issues)

Picutres from International Eucharistic Congress - Guadalajara, October 10-17, 2004

Faith and Patriotism (New York Times op-ed column by Archbishop Chaput of Denver)

Catholic Bishops Launch Stem Cell Ads Nationwide

Statement on the Windsor Report 2004 from the Primate of All Nigeria

Amy Welborn: What it feels like to have a person inside you

About the Birth Control Pill Heart Disease "Study"

Our Lord of The Miracles Mass (Holy Family, Seattle; October 24, 2004)

Pictures from Peru

(October 2010)

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Resources for Geography of Faith

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

Parish Picture Album

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru