TEXT: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, November 3, 2019

November 13, 2019 Father De Celles Homily

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 3, 2019

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


In today’s Gospel we find a very interesting character named Zacchaeus.

Now, Zacchaeus was a tax collector,

and because of that the Jews called him a “sinner.”

Does that mean it’s a sin to collect taxes?


The problem was that in Jesus’ time tax collectors often made their money,

and even got rich, by assessing and collecting

more taxes that people legally owed,

and then keeping that extra amount for themselves

—in other words they were notorious cheaters and thieves.

And Zacchaeus was one of them.


One of the reasons Zacchaeus had this job was that he was chosen by Romans

who didn’t care if he stole from his fellow Jews,

just as long as he gave Caesar what was due to Caesar.

But imagine if the Jews had been allowed to choose, even elect,

their own tax collectors.

Zacchaeus would definitely be out of a job.


Perhaps this biblical story inspired the folks

who wrote the Constitution of the State of Virginia,

because in it they listed 5 local officials

who have to be elected by the people.

One of those is the Count or City Commissioner of Revenue

—the tax collector.


Given that, would you elect Zacchaeus to be your tax collector?

Would you elect anyone who was a notorious cheat and fraud

to determine how much tax you owed,

and give him access to all the tax collections of Fairfax County?

If you knew you could be over assessed on your property tax

by 100s or even 1000s of dollars,

and that instead of the taxes you paid going to pay for roads and public works,

that they were going into the bank account of the tax collector

—would you re-elect him?


I guarantee you, even if you had never voted in your life,

you would go out to vote against that thief.

And even if you weren’t eligible to vote,

you would make sure your friends and family voted against him, or her.



This Tuesday we have state, local, and county elections.

Now, the Commissioner of Revenue of Fairfax County is not on this year’s ballot.

And I have no idea if our current commissioner is honest or not

—I presume he is as honest as the day is long.


But what if there were people on the ballot running for other offices

that were known to be guilty of other terrible sins

that would directly affect their office?


For example, what if a person was running for delegate

who had proposed changing state law

so that a doctor could commit an abortion—could kill a baby—

even after nine months of pregnancy,

even as it’s about to be born, even as his mother is dilating?

Well, there’s at least one candidate on our ballot that did exactly that.

I mean babies fully grown, healthy, and coming out into the world

—and she says we can kill it.


Or what if there was a person running for school board

who promoted the transgender agenda in our schools?

You know that 90% of young children who have gender confusion

actually grow out of it pretty quickly and accept their bodies

and happily flourish in the gender they were born with.


But the Fairfax County School Board,

with the exception of only 2 members,

including our own Springfield representative,

has supported an agenda

that doesn’t help these kids during their confusion,

but encourages them to be confused even more.

And it even promotes an agenda that leads them

to taking medication that permanently stunts physical maturation and growth,

and to even have surgeries cutting off their sexual organs

—permanently mutilating perfectly healthy bodies.

And they tell young girls that there’s something wrong with them

if they’re traumatized by having to share a locker room or restroom

with a confused, naked, boy.

Imagine, your precious daughter having to share a restroom

with a fully grown man, just because he says he’s a woman.


What is all this but child abuse?

Whether it’s encouraging the delusions and mutilation of confused children,

or the traumatization of other kids?

If a parent even spanks a child in public,

the County can call it child abuse and take that child away from them.

And if a priest abuses a child, they rightly put him in jail and defrock him.

So if a member of or candidate for the school board,

supports the abuse of children through

traumatization, confusion, or mutilation, what should we do with them?



In the Gospel today the Jews rightly judge Zacchaeus to be a sinner.

But they also seem to go further—they seem to assume he cannot change.

But he does change.

After meeting Jesus he admits his sin, repents, and makes restitution.

As the Gospel tells us:

“Zacchaeus …said to the Lord,

“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,

and if I have extorted anything from anyone

I shall repay it four times over.”


This reminds us that we should never assume that criminals and sinners

cannot change and be forgiven.

Far from it; as Christians, as Catholics,

we should pray that that happens, and rejoice when it actually does.


But that does not mean that we shouldn’t recognize injustice when we see it.

And that doesn’t mean that we should elect thieves to collect our taxes,

or that we should elect someone who wants to kill babies

to make laws about life and death,

or that we should elect someone who embraces the abuse of children

to be in charge of our schools.


In fact the opposite is true:

we must vote to stop the killing of babies and the abuse of children.



Now, some say,

but what if the pro-abortion or pro-transgender-agenda candidate

has a lot of other good ideas that I support?


But which one of those “good ideas”

is more important than protecting our children?


That sounds a lot like the Bishops who cover up for child-abusing priests,

saying, “yes, but other than that, Father is a great priest.”





This Tuesday Virginians go to the polls to elect state and local officials.

The county assessor, or Commissioner of Revenue, is not on the ballot this year.

But the whole school board is on the ballot

—and we get to elect 4 of the members:

the representative of our district, Springfield,

and 3 at-large representatives.

And all the state delegates to the Virginia Assembly are also on the ballot,

including our own.

You would never elect a thief to collect your taxes,

why would you elect someone who won’t protect our children

to run our schools or write our laws?


I can’t tell you the names of people to vote for.

And when you get into the voting booth not only will the ballot not tell you

who’s pro-abortion or pro-transgender theory,

(but) in many cases it won’t even say what party they belong to.

So you have to find out before you go into the booth.

There are many voter-guides out there—check them out.

Or ask you friends—ask someone here after Mass.

But find out.


And don’t assume anything.

For example, after the last election a member of our immigrant community

came to me in tears telling me all her friends and family

voted for another member of their ethnic group,

assuming they had the same values.

But when it came time for them to govern, their values were radically different,

as the elected official promoted a radical pro-abortion agenda.

Remember, Zacchaeus was a Jew, but he stole from his fellow Jews.

So do not assume—find out.



In today’s gospel Zacchaeus was a sinner, but he repented

—he was lost, but was saved by Jesus.

So we should never judge anyone’s heart.

But we must judge their public actions,

especially when they endanger our children.

And we must judge our own hearts, and our own actions,

including the times in the past when we’ve failed to vote, or voted badly.


So consider all this, and resolve with me today,

to protect our children from all who would harm them.