The readings we have on this 31st Sunday of the year C in ordinary time, reminds me about an incident which happened a couple of years ago. In the parish community where I work, there was an old man whom the people felt was both wicked and evil. He was one of the main problems they had in the community according to them. A time came when this old man became sick, and he sent his son to come to the parish and get him a priest. The son came to the parish and I went with him. When we got to the hospital, the man told me that he wants to become a Catholic and would want to be baptized as a catholic; and really desires to be a catholic. When he said it, taking into consideration all that have been said about him within the community and also the fact that he was seriously sick and in the hospital, I felt it was necessary to invite more people to be witnesses to the wonderful situation before me. So I had to call the son and ask him, do you understand what your father is requesting for, he said yes. So I told him it will be very good if more people can be privy to what is happening here today. So, if you don’t mind, if you can get the parish council chairman, the CWO President, and any other two members of the community to be here and listen to what he is saying; it will be wonderful. The son told me Fr. I can do that right away, because he was excited that the father was willing to embrace Christianity and Catholicism. So, we agreed that in the next one hour I will return back to the hospital, while the son goes to get these people. In 45 minutes, I got a call from him and he said that he has been able to get all the people I requested for and that they are in the hospital waiting me.
When I got to the hospital, they were all there and the old man made the same request in their presence. His request for baptism can be granted because he desires it and also in a good state of mind, though he was sick. All those present to witness what was happening were all surprised; and the old man received baptism. Then I went back to the parish, and the discussions showed that everybody was really surprised. A few hours after that, the old man died. The son called me and said my father has passed on. I had to contact all those who were with me in the hospital to give them the information. This man was very lucky to have gotten the opportunity to reconcile with God before going to meet him. At mass that evening, I told the people what transpired earlier in the day, and you could hear people murmuring. After the mass some people came to me and said, Fr don’t you think he knew he was going to die; that is why he sent for you to come and give him baptism? I said well, that is not for us to judge, even if he knows; the important thing is that he requested for it and believes in the power of the baptism. When the day for the funeral of the old man came, the youths from the community insisted that the man will not be buried, because he has caused a lot of havoc in the community and that if we insist on burying the man they were going to disrupt it and make sure nothing happens. It took quite some hours and convincing to make them allow the funeral to go on. At the end of the day, the man was buried.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, looking at the readings of today, I was just wondering about the type of God that we serve. A faithful God, a God that is merciful, a God that is full of love, and a God of compassion. He does not hold our guilt against us, he presents us at every moment the opportunity for conversion. That is why in the gospel today he says that he came to seek out the lost. For God, all of us, dear friends in Christ are simply miracles waiting to happen. He never gives up on us. He always presents us with the opportunity for conversion. Just like in the case of Zacchaeus in today’s gospel; he gives us another chance. He presents a platform that can bring forth our conversion like in the case of Zacchaeus in the gospel. He wants us to turn away from our misdeeds, our evil ways. He gives us the wonderful opportunity that will change our story and change our situation.
That is why dear friends in Christ, on this 31st Sunday of the year, the Lord is saying to you and I that no matter the situation, no matter how far gone we are in evil; he is willing to give us another chance. God is always ready and willing to change our story. The question today would be, are you willing to give God a chance and make that happen in your life? No matter what the situation is, no matter what the difficulties are; he is ready to change that situation like he did in the case of Zacchaeus. Just give him the opportunity on this 31st Sunday of the year and experience the love and generousity of God. The God we serve is a faithful God. He is an awesome God. The Lord is expecting that we come back to him. Zacchaeus experienced this love, this conversion, because he was willing to cooperate with God by making that vital decision that changed his life and situation and ‘salvation’ visited him and his family.
It is my prayer today, that the good Lord in his infinite goodness and love will bless us and grant us the graces we need, to cooperate with him and bring forth transformations in our lives. Peace be with you! Amen!