31st Sunday in Ordinary Time C


In the humorous and eventful story of Zacchaeus, the biggest risk Jesus takes is inviting himself over to Zacchaeus house for dinner for to break bread with someone was to identify with that person, to declare yourself on their team.  That is why the Pharisees grumble that Jesus would dine at the house “of a sinner.”  Holy men should know enough to stay away from public sinners like the tax collector who had made his fortune off of others and on behalf of the hated Roman Empire.  Jesus however can claim vindication for Zacchaeus has undergone a conversion – he is a new man.  He promises to give half of his belongings to the poor and restore four fold to anyone he has defrauded.  Jesus rejoices in his proclamation.  “Today salvation has come to this house.”

“Today salvation has come to this house.”  It reminds me of the promise Jesus made to seventy-two disciples that when they come to a house and a peaceful person resides there, Christ’s peace will rest on them.  It makes sense that when Christ is invited and welcomed into a home, salvation has irrecoverably come to that house.

It makes me think of the many houses of salvation in my life beginning with a split level ranch at 73 Mountain Avenue in Bayville, NY where my mother, father and brother taught me how to love.  At the University there was an old hunting lodge that was converted to Chapel House, a place where people of all faiths gathered to pray and I met the best friends of my life.  As a young adult I lived at 26 Manning Boulevard, a great place for a party.  There we lived and prayed and played together.  Salvation and a small amount of property damage came to that house.  Passing beyoond the doors of Theological College at the Catholic University of America I met other men who shared my dream of spreading the Gospel through a vocation to the priesthood.  Main Street in Oneonta, my beloved first assignment, will always be a crossroads of salvation for me.  And ten years ago, a church on Union Street and a church on Rosa Road where I had only visited became home to me, a home crowded with effects of salvation that has occurred in these sacred places.

I have also known other places of salvation that only were possible due to my ministry. A mud hut in Ecuador built on stilts above land a woman did not even own, but she beamed like the owner of the finest mansion.  Salvation ran thickly in a village named KwaNdbequeke where our generosity has brought the necessities of life to many.  And when I finally went to San Augustine, our sister parish in Mexico, it was like the prayers of over a decade we had shared with them met me there. I have also known quieter places of salvation that were no less powerful.  The hospital bedside, the inner room in a house where the family shares in the anointing of the sick – salvation is felt there as well.

It seems to me that mercy is the avenue which flows with grace and like a torrent of water and reaches every fills every place in our lives, except rather than destruction, in its wake are the gilded marks of God’s presence.

I am sure each of us could make a mosaic of the houses of salvation in our lives.  Places that are a sacrament of God’s graciousness.  Fifty years ago the house of Dickerson became a place of salvation when they were married and today we begin a new one when Dana and Alex are wed.  Can you remember bringing your child home after their baptism with the faint odor of the Chrism clinging in their hair?  How true to say on that day, “Salvation has come to this house!”  The quiet moments with friends and the outrageous stories still shared in your families would long be forgotten if they were not moments of our personal salvation history.

Bishop Scharfenberger has asked often, “How do you end a Holy Year of Mercy?”  Do you slam shut the doors of mercy?  Of course not.  Instead let us make a pledge that whomever enters our homes and our lives will walk through holy doors, greeted with the expectation that we might be entertaining angels.  Let our houses swim with mercy that all might be immersed in God’s grace.  Let us speak of the Good News of Jesus Christ and be Christ to one another.  Let us make every passing through a threshold, every new encounter a mercy moment so that Jesus might rejoice with us as he did with Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house.”