I usually don’t encourage people to read the Old Testament / the Hebrew Scriptures. Instead I encourage them to read the Gospels which are a bit less confusing. However, the first reading this weekend from the Book of Wisdom would be the exception. Not only is it not confusing; it is central to understanding our right relationship with God.
The author of the Book of Wisdom states, “the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.” How can he say that? Obviously the author did not have the experience we have of seeing the universe through the lens of the Hubble Telescope! The Hubble Telescope tells us just the opposite. The universe is not tiny like a grain of sand or a drop of morning dew. On the contrary, the universe is vast; made up of billions upon billions of stars. We see no beginning or end to the universe. Our Milky Way Galaxy makes up a tiny portion of the universe and our mother earth is only a small portion of the Galaxy. So, how can the author speak of the universe as tiny? He can do so because he begins his statement by saying, “Before the LORD… “ Compared to its creator the universe is tiny.
Now if you find this news rather humbling imagine that while our earth is only a small part of the galaxy; what are we? You and I are just one of the roughly 7.5 billion people who inhabit the earth. Talk about tiny! But that is exactly the point the author of the Book of Wisdom is trying to make. If a comparison could help; How much attention do you give to a crumb on the kitchen counter? I would suspect not much. If you are anything like me you just sweep it off the counter onto the floor without a second thought. So each of us, I would suggest, is just a crumb on the counter of the universe!! Not very significant in the grand scheme of things.
A balance was a type of scale with a pan on either side used to weigh things long before we had digital scales. Place a grain of sand on one of the trays. Does the scale move? I think not. Yet the author of Wisdom says that is what the universe is in comparison to God. Which, by the way, makes us even more infinitesimal in comparison to God. Which could be very depressing to consider that you and I are just crumbs on the counter to God.
However, Wisdom does not stop here. The author goes on to say, “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made…” This is the astounding mystery of our God. That while we give no thought to the crumbs on the counter; God cares about us crumbs. God loves us and shows mercy to us; ALL OF US! God does not love us because we are good. We are good because God loves us. Theologians refer to this as the love of predilection. The author goes on to say, “for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?” All exists because God loved it into existence and sustains it by his continued love. A song is given life, as it were by the singer. So, all that exists in given life though God’s love. Therefore, the autor can say, “…But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!”
This brings us to better understand Jesus in the Gospel. We are told Zacchaeus, was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man. So, we know that just like other tax collectors of that time who cooperated with the Romans and extorted money from people to line their own pockets, he was hated. He and everyone else knew he was not “a good man.” However, to everyone’s surprise, (I imagine even Zacchaeus) when Jesus comes into the town he looks up in the tree and calls Zacchaeus by name saying, “today I must stay at your house.” Clearly this action by Jesus radically changed Zacchaeus’ life. How is it that with all the good people in that town Jesus chose to stay in Zacchaeus’ house? Because God is “the lover of souls;” all souls, maybe especially the souls that have strayed.
I find it interesting that we who are all crumbs think we can pass judgement on other crumbs believing that I am a better crumb than that one. That was true even in Jesus time. Yet the one is greater than us crumbs shows mercy and compassion.
Just as Jesus chose to spend time and dine with Zacchaeus in the Gospel; so He chooses to spend time with us and dine with us even though we are mere crumbs in the universe. Not only that but he provides the meal not just the bread and water we deserve but God invites us to feed on the very Body and Blood of His Only begotten Son.
I am sure that there are many things we can find to complain about today. However, when we are confronted with today’s readings we need to know how blessed we are to be loved by the creator of the universe, who thinks so much of each crumb He created that Jesus came, suffered, died and rose; and even now continually nourishes us that we may have life in Him. WOW!!!