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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Nov. 3, 2013

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

November 3, Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle C. Readings:

1) Wisdom 11:22-12:2

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

2) 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2

Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

I remember having a Zacchaeus moment once, and it changed my life, just as it changed the life of Zacchaeus, the main character in this week's Gospel.

I was on my first visit to Haiti, straggling behind my group of Catholic journalists, priests and Protestant ministers walking through a crowded maze of shanties in Cite Soleil, Port-au-Prince's worst slum.

Overwhelmed by this impoverished mass of humanity, I felt small and insignificant, but I very much wanted to see it. I searched the scene before me for a way to understand its meaning and relate to it.

Then someone in a doorway caught my eye. She was a girl of about 15, pregnant and holding a child. Her feet were bare, her T-shirt dirty and torn. She looked straight into my eyes, and we instantly knew each other. There was no condemnation in her gaze, although I felt overdressed in my normal clothes. But her eyes held me and said, unmistakably, "Remember me."

At that moment I knew I had to change my attitude toward others. I knew that from then on, I had to join my life to the life of this girl and to make her, and other people struggling in difficult circumstances, my concern.

Since that encounter I've been back to Haiti many times. There and elsewhere, I've heard grumbling. Just as Jesus' disciples complained about him eating with sinners, some people who have invested much time and work serving the poor of developing countries complain about people visiting impoverished areas, gawking and taking photos as though at a poverty "theme park." Indeed, if people come just to take a look as detached observers, it's grossly disrespectful and the grumbling is justified.

But, just as Jesus wanted to dine at Zacchaeus' home, sometimes the poor want us to see and know them. They want to spend time with us sinners who've never before paid them much attention or even considered a relationship with them. Incredibly, they welcome us.

Few things are as earthshaking as such an experience. It is Jesus in the flesh.

I always will remember that young girl, how she drew me in and opened my life to Christ.


Have you ever had a Zacchaeus moment? How have you experienced Jesus coming to you in a personal way? How has it changed you?


"He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner." -- Luke 19:7


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