The people who lived at the time of Jesus and for hundreds of years before had a simple view of what we call cosmology. Have you ever looked up at the blue sky on a perfectly cloudless day? The sky looks like an upside down cup, like a canopy covering the earth. That’s just about how those people saw things. The sky was like a ceiling and above the ceiling was water. It was known as the waters above whereas the seas were known as the waters below. Rain came when God opened the heaven’s floodgates to water the earth so the earth could be productive. They saw no connection between sun and moon. God made the sun to rule the day and the moon to rule the night and the stars were just there. Yet people had a great sense of reverence for God’s creation. For them the heavens proclaimed the glory of God, for them everything gave witness to the wonder of God and spoke to them of God.
But as we heard from our first reading from the book of Wisdom compared to God and God’s wonder, grandeur, and immensity, ‘the whole world before you is like a speck that tips the scales, like a drop of morning dew that falls on the ground.’ The author of this book of Wisdom was aware of the countless times the Jewish people had been unfaithful to the covenant God made with them yet he was firm in his faith that the Almighty God loved all the things that exist, that God detested none of the things God made. As our author looked at the world around him he knew God’s immortal spirit was in all things, God’s presence and power permeated everything and bound all things together. That was his world view.
Because of our scientific developments over the centuries we have a totally different knowledge of the workings of the universe. For years we’ve been probing the vastness and the mysteries of space. We find it hard to grasp such vastness. Every now and then we get surprised, awed by a new discovery. This past July someone discovered a new star the dimensions of which boggle the mind. According to scientific reports out of Chile it is the most massive star ever found. It is 265 more massive than the sun and millions of times brighter. It is 165,000 light years away, that means it took 165,000 years traveling at the speed of light for it to be seen by us. It’s impossible for the ordinary person to get his/her head around such dimensions.
Yet nothing has changed- compared to our creating God, the whole world is like a speck that tips the scales, like a drop of morning dew that falls to the ground – and it is still true God detests none of the things God made – it is still true God spares all things for they are God’s – the God who loves the living, the God who loves all things.
From his cosmic vision of things St. John begins his gospel telling us,” In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.” Then John goes on to tell us,” And the Word was made flesh and lived among us.”
The Word living among us is Jesus, the Jesus we meet in today’s gospel, the Jesus we hear calling a robber baron named Zacchaeus down from a tree, the Jesus we see transforming this man’s life. People grumbled that Jesus would waste his time on a chief tax collector who made himself rich by ripping people off. But that is what Jesus was sent to do, spend time with the outcasts, the seekers,the powerless, the lepers, the widows. His message was God loves all the things that exist and detests none of the things God made for God loves the livings.
All this knowledge about the vastness, the immensity of space and where our tiny planet fits into the whole scene can tempt us to feel insignificant, of no consequence in the vast scheme of things.
Jesus reminds us that we are not some small speck in this vastness universe. Jesus reminds us we are precious in the eyes of God and always on the mind of God. Jesus tells us that every hair on our heads is counted and God is closer to us than we are to ourselves. In God we live and move and have our being.
It is true that the whole world is like a speck that tips the scale, like a drop of morning dew that falls to the ground and it is also true that before this vast universe began God chose us in Christ to be his adopted sons and daughters. It is also true that the same God who created all that is so loved us he sent his son into our world, not to condemn us but to embrace our humanity, to be like us in all things except sin and to die on the cross so that we might have an everlasting life. The crucified Christ bears witness to how precious we are to God, for all our faults and failing. Through Christ his son God calls us down from the tree of our self-centredness, our insensitivity to the needs of others and whatever else in our lives that keeps us from being the person God calls us to be – he calls us as he called Zacchaeus and says to us what he said to him,” hurry and come down for I must stay at your house today” to help you live the faith you profess, to be the person I call you to be and come to the promise of eternal life that is yours through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ my Son.