31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reflection: Many themes, lots of hope


Climate crisis, royalty, embodiment and marginality.

What a strange combination of themes that emerge from this Sunday’s readings that challenge our ways of thinking, our traditional beliefs, our self-understanding, and our position in life. These themes, though disconcerting, can be life-giving not only for the human community but also for all communities of life, and indeed, especially for the planet itself.

Deeply embedded in today’s readings is a message of hope and an opportunity to move beyond our God metaphors so that we can embrace life in a fuller way for the full flourishing of all creation.

The first reading is taken from the Wisdom of Solomon, traditionally labeled by Roman Catholics as one of the seven deuterocanonical books. Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians include these seven books in the Old Testament canon; Protestants and Protestants’ versions of the Bible do not. Instead, these seven books are included in a section called the apocrypha placed at the end of the Old Testament. These seven books were never part of the Jewish Hebrew canon.

This information is interesting for Roman Catholics because today’s reading from the Wisdom of Solomon helps to shape the Catholic teaching on the theology of sacramentality. This theology maintains that all life, all creation is holy. Today’s poem from the Wisdom of Solomon declares that the Sacred One not only loves all creation but also sustains all creation. A further bold statement in this reading is that the divine’s “imperishable” spirit is in all things. Other translations have “immortal” spirit is in all things. Thus, the divine Spirit is imbued in all creation which further grounds the theology of Catholic sacramentality.

So why is this reading from Solomon so important? One reason is because it has profound implications for our environmental crisis today. When we listen to this text, if we can hear a vision and understanding of the Holy Spirit it presents to us, namely, that the spirit of the Sacred One pulsates within all creation — a spirit that no one religious tradition could ever contain or makes claims to — then we can see how this Wisdom poem can inform our thinking and our lives today.

If we take a cosmological view of creation instead of an anthropocentric one, the message to us becomes clear: every time we lose a human or nonhuman species unnaturally due to climate crisis, we have lost something of the spirit, the wonder, the beauty and the mystery of the divine. Sustainability, then, becomes more than sustaining life and the planet itself; sustainability is about preserving the very essence of the divine within us, within all that is created. If we do not realize this point at its deepest level, then that is our spiritual poverty.

The world has witnessed an amazing event: the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest reigning monarch in British history. Many people commented on Queen Elizabeth’s kindness and compassion, her goodness and fidelity to duty. But some have also commented on her imperial rule that included the colonization of peoples and lands, some of which are still not independent in present time. Britain is an empire nation that continues to sustain a monarchy characterized by power and wealth. Other countries continue to sustain monarchies as well, like Jordan. Some, like Germany, have abolished them.

In today’s responsorial psalm, we hear about the graciousness, mercy, compassion and fidelity of the Holy One. But the language for the Holy One who is beyond all metaphors is clearly kyriarchal and patriarchal, reflective of biblical times when empires struggled against one another for power over peoples, lands and resources. The psalm invites us to ponder this question: What does our “God-language” say about what we believe in and what we believe about the Holy One?

The second reading from 2 Thessalonians and the Gospel invites us to ponder our self-understanding. What is the divine calling we have received that the Holy One should make us worthy of? The call is the call to holiness, to become the embodiment of the divine that can only happen when we give ourselves over to the radical transformative work of the divine Spirit.

Whether we are well on our way in this journey, or on the margins like Zacchaeus, we are all called to welcome the Holy One in our midst who first calls out to us. The only needed prerequisites are wonder and hospitality to welcome the divine regardless of our state in life. As we have heard in the poem from the Wisdom of Solomon, the Spirit of God is in all things, even in the least among us.

Reading 1

(Wisdom 11: 22-12:2)

Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.
For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours,
O LORD and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!
Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little,
warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing,
that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!

Responsorial psalm

(Psalm 145: 1-2, 8-11, 13-14)

R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.

I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.

The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.

The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.

Reading 2

(2 Thessalonians 1: 11-2:2)

Brothers and sisters:
We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.
We ask you, brothers and sisters,
with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ
and our assembling with him,
not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed
either by a “spirit,” or by an oral statement,
or by a letter allegedly from us
to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.


(Luke 19: 1-10)

At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”