Readings for Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Readings from the Jerusalem Bible
Reading 1 2 Mc 6:18-31
The story of Eleazar given from the Second Book of Maccabees is the companion story to that of the mother and her seven sons (see 2 Mc 7:1-2, 9-14). These stories while intended to serve as examples of heroic courage and fidelity to God’s Law were popular with early Christians because they gave a solid theological underpinning to “Martyrology. “
Responsorial Psalm Ps 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-7
R. The Lord upholds me.
Psalm 3 is a lament singing of plight of one attacked and oppressed by enemies on all sides. Faith in the Lord, the singers proclaim is the only salvation and they asks the Lord to come and be their protector. This sense of persecution provides a strong link to the first reading from 2nd Maccabees.
Gospel Lk 19:1-10
Today we hear the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector and Jesus. While still on his final journey to Jerusalem this encounter takes place in Jericho, on the western edge of Jordan Valley, about 6 miles north of the Dead Sea, north east of Jerusalem. Jesus chooses Zacchaeus’ home for his resting place (an unpopular choice; “…they began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’”)
Jesus uses this occasion to give us a clear idea of why he came. When Zacchaeus tells him what he as done with his material possessions, Jesus proclaims; “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” His mission is salvation.
We reflected upon the Zacchaeus story just a few weeks ago (see 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time) and the companion story about the mother and seven brothers from 2nd Maccabees a week later on the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. Clearly, the themes of fidelity, faithfulness to the Laws of the Church in the face of extreme opposition and the mission of Jesus to save those who have turned from those laws are important ones.
In that fist reading, we find Eleazar, an old man in his nineties, faced with not only persecution but temptation. In spite of his willingness to immediately face torture for the sake of preserving his fidelity to the Mosaic Law that prohibited the eating of pork, his friends we are told, take up the role of the Evil one. They whisper in his ear – you don’t need to do this. You can go and get some other meat that is OK for you to eat and it will appear that you have done what is commanded by the evil ruler. His friends suggested this.
What a great example for us of how the well meaning of others can lead us away from our goal of holiness and fidelity to our faith. Think of all the examples from our own lives when temptation was presented to us. How many of those times when we either failed the test or came closest to failing was that temptation presented by one close to us? It is in those instances, when what we know what God calls us to do is most difficult, that our temptation to listen to alternatives that lead us away from our faith are most persuasive. The more difficult the effort called for on our part, the easer it is for a person who means well, even a loved on, to offer up an alternative that is easier but wrong.
We pray today that like Eleazar we will be strong in our faith when faced with such temptations (…lead us not into temptation). We also thank God for the gift of Zacchaeus who shows us that even if we do not pass that test, the Lord still invites us to return.
Jim Miles, Deacon