Seven Letters to Seven Churches

Homily for Tuesday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time

The opening chapters of the Book of Revelation contain seven short letters to the seven principal churches of Asia Minor. Because the sacred writer specifically chooses seven churches, seven being the number that is considered a symbol of completeness and universality, the letters are really written to all Christians. Through these short letters, the author wishes to both compliment and chastise the converts in these Gentile cities. Those who are living according to the Gospel are complimented, but today we hear the letters to Sardis and Laodicea which receive some stern criticism. Despite the criticism, each letter concludes by inviting these people back to the heavenly banquet if they reform their lives.

The Gospel today also features a banquet in the house of the little man, Zacchaeus. He is labeled as a tax collector which are really code words among the Jews for someone who is regarded as a sinner. When Jesus invites himself to the house of Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus responds by opening his heart to the mercy of God. He makes a generous statement of atonement for his past and a promise to be faithful in the future.

“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the doors, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” The first reading gives us Jesus’ promise. The Gospel shows how he fulfills it.

The Gospel ends with a profound statement that can actually be used to interpret all four Gospels. Jesus has come to seek out and to save the lost. If we think of the many men and women with whom Jesus interacts throughout the Gospels, we realize that St. Luke inserts this statement at a pivotal point in the Gospels. The very next chapter of the Gospel sees Jesus enter into Jerusalem where he will suffer and die. Zacchaeus is the last person to be sought out and found by Jesus.

Like the churches of Sardis and Laodicea and like Zacchaeus, we are also invited to sit down to dine with Jesus at this foretaste of the heavenly banquet.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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