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Bulletin: November 3, 2019

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time


Why do good things happen to bad people?

Does this question strike you as odd? Aren’t we usually struggling with the bad things that happen to good people? True enough, but when good things happen to others, especially those we consider undeserving, it can seem natural to grumble. How do some people always seem to “get away with it,” while we spend our lives trying to act as God would want?

As a tax collector, Zacchaeus cheated and got rich off of his own people. Why does Jesus want to be so nice to him? It’s just not fair!


This problem of “good things for bad people” can cause as much distress as the problem of bad things happening to good people. Both touch on one of the deepest mysteries of human existence: Is the universe fair? Is God just? This is what is making the crowd grumble about Jesus favoring Zacchaeus. Why is Jesus befriending such a sinner?

This is the third such complaint about Jesus in Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 5: 27–33 and 5:25–15).

However, the encounter with Zacchaeus is different. In the other accounts, Jesus responds to his critics himself, but here, it is Zacchaeus who speaks up. Not only does Zacchaeus announce compensation for those he has cheated, he vows to give away half of his goods to the poor. At this point in the Gospel, Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem, where he knows he will be put to death. No one else that Jesus meets on this journey has responded as readily

as Zacchaeus to his summons— first, to come down from the tree, then to “come down” from his wealthy lifestyle and the corruption that supported it.

Although he did not travel to Jerusalem with Jesus, Zacchaeus clearly understood the demands of discipleship.

This story gives us a hint as to why good things might happen to bad people: it is God’s patience, with Zacchaeus and with us as well, as God awaits our response, for us to become the disciples God is calling us to be.

Today’s Readings: Wis 11:22 — 12:2; Ps 145:1–2, 8–9, 10–11, 13, 14; 2 Thes 1:11 — 2:2; Lk 19:1–10

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