God's Word on Sunday: Wisdom puts creation in proper context

  • October 27, 2019

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov. 3 (Year C) Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Psalm 145; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

Not all theologies are helpful to us or give God proper honour. 

There have been theologies that have disparaged creation, looking on it as a huge cosmic mistake. Others have held (and some still do) a negative view of humanity, finding nothing but brokenness and depravity worthy of damnation. That is what happens when we wander too far from the biblical witness. 

In Genesis, God looked upon everything that God had created and declared it “good.” At the end of the process of creation, God’s work even rated a “very good.”

Throughout the Old Testament, God was continually praised as the creator and sustainer of the world and the universe, and the one who provided for the needs of all. Wisdom picked up the theme and was even more emphatic. 

God loves all things that exist. God would not have made anything that was worthy of contempt or hatred. God’s immortal spirit is in all things and all things belong to God, who loves the living. 

It is clear from this passage and similar ones that creation and humanity are precious to God. If that is so, then both should be precious to us. That means a reverential care for creation and refusal to mistreat or hate another human being. 

There are some who would like to portray care for our common home as something trendy and superficial, when in fact it is biblical. It only seems novel because it has been ignored so much and for so long. 

Wisdom reveals something else: God is merciful to all — not just a select few — and God is not the harsh and punishing tyrant some imagine. 

Whatever painful experience God sends humanity’s way is salutary — it is meant to wake us up spiritually and lead us on the path home. 

A theology that delights in creation and in the God that created it is helpful and life-giving. Spiritual practice that extends to others the same mercy God extends to us gives God proper glory and honour and continues the divine work in the world. We should not feel threatened by mercy, but joyful at both receiving and giving it. 

With this as our guiding principle, we will be a long way towards satisfying the prayer of 2 Thessalonians that we be worthy of the Lord’s call, glorifying the name of the Lord Jesus in our lives. This will also prevent the sort of anxiety and fear that seemed to overtake the Thessalonian community — Jesus is always with us. He comes again whenever we manifest the love and mercy of God in our hearts.

The story of Zacchaeus was a test case for application of the passage from Wisdom. As a hated tax collector — and oppressor and betrayer of his people to the Romans — there was not much (it seemed) in him to love. He probably had few friends and received even fewer invitations into peoples’ homes. 

When Jesus came to town, he was content to remain in a tree where he could see Jesus and not get in the way of others. But it was not to be — he attracted all sorts of unwelcome attention, for Jesus stopped under the tree, looked up and informed Zacchaeus that he would come to his house for dinner. 

Jesus was unmoved by the storm of indignation and criticism. People could not comprehend why He would consent to eat with such a lowlife. Zacchaeus was obviously not worthy of divine attention. But the same spirit that was in Jesus was also present in creation and even in Zacchaeus. 

Jesus looked beyond the outward appearance of Zacchaeus’ life and saw only the image of the living God within him. 

The unconditional love and mercy did its magic — Zacchaeus was a transformed man. He was eager to give half of his wealth to the poor and to give fourfold restitution to anyone he may have defrauded. 

Jesus noted that salvation had come that day to Zacchaeus’ house. He, too, was a son of Abraham and did not lose that status because of the wayward direction of his life. 

No one is left behind or excluded from God’s love. It is a lesson we still need to learn and doing so would help to heal the divisions in the Church and restore its credibility in the eyes of many.

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