30th October 2016
The first reading, a prayer to God, is from the book of Wisdom, sometimes called the Wisdom of Solomon, but it was not by Solomon as there is good evidence that it was written in Alexandria in Egypt in the first half of the first century BC. It is one of those books not usually in the Protestant Bible because it was not accepted by the Hebrew speaking Jews in Palestine; such books are call deutero-canonical. The passage that we have today is part of a reflection on the events from the story of the Exodus (the escape of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt under the power of the Lord). It expresses in poetic form (or beautiful prose) the all-pervasive power, mercy, care and love of God for every thing and for everyone – all of which are his creation. After the first couplet, God is addressed directly in a paean of praise, which is also a message for us all.
The second reading is from an early letter of Paul to the people in the Christian community in Thessalonica. It was there that Paul, Silvanus and Timothy went to evangelise; they were rebuffed in the Jewish synagogue and so changed to preaching to non-Jews, meeting in the house of a man called Jason (a Greek name, also for the hero of ancient myths and more recent productions). But the Jews were causing this group some trouble and because of their persecution some of the Christians thought the Final Judgment and the second coming of Jesus was about to happen – some had even given up work and were just idling away the time, waiting. Paul wrote this second letter to them in this situation to encourage them to get on with living their lives as good Christians. In the reading they are told they should not think that the Day of the Lord’s coming is at hand, just because of some supposed message.
Today’s gospel gives us a story well-liked by children and easily remembered by anyone who has heard it before. It is about Jesus arriving at Jericho and it is the last story before his arrival in Jerusalem. His popularity went before him, and even if only because of curiosity, a crowd formed to see him and his disciples arriving, though some must have heard also of the things he had said and done; there were rumours about the way he showed love even to sinners and non-Jews, and spoke of a liberating and loving father God. The crowd would have included a great variety of people, but as often in such a situation the small people and children can’t get to see – a real human story, typical of Luke! It is a story of Jesus once again showing how God loves all people even if they are sinners or despised by others. Jesus takes the initiative in drawing the best out of people; and we see this in the story of the conversion of Zacchaeus a chief tax-collector.