Come out of your shame; you are also son of the promise
Like the Gospel of the previous Sunday, about a Pharisee and Tax-collector at prayer in the Temple, this Sunday’s Gospel speaks also about another Tax collector, Zacchaeus, who receives Jesus in his home. And this encounter gives birth to new resolutions in the life of Zacchaeus. We pray that our own encounter with Jesus today be also a source of new start in our lives.
- Wisdom 11: 22-12: 2
- 2 Thessalonians 1:11-22
- Luke 19: 1–10
A man of the road, a man of encounter
Businessmen are often on the road; it’s the way they keep their business running. Apparently Jesus does the same. We have many gospel accounts where Jesus, “on his way…” makes decisive encounters with persons in different situations. In his business of seeking out and saving what’s lost there’s no other way for him than walk and meet people. It’s the case in today’s Gospel.
Jesus is on the way to Jerusalem, passing through Jericho. There is a man called Zacchaeus, a tax-collector. Taxes, a burden to others, are however a source of richness for him. And because of that the people hate him and consider him as a sinner who has no chance of salvation. (cf. https://singlehumanity.com/2016/10/20/homily-30th-sunday-c-humble-prayer/). In fact, Zacchaeus is not as finished as he is seen by others.
Zacchaeus, sinner but inhabited by profound desire
Zacchaeus is a rich-tax collector, a cheat and not as pious as others, yet, he carries in him a profound desire. He is looking for something to give meaning to his life. This desire expresses itself in his curious wish to meet Jesus. But there are several obstacles.
By his profession and reputation it’s unlikely that he will be at easy to mingle with everyone else waiting to see Jesus. Besides, there’s a crowed and Zacchaeus is only a little man. Doesn’t he have enough reasons to abandon the whole thing all together? Oh, no! He wants to go till the end –he must see Jesus.
Surrounded by crowds but he relates with persons
Zacchaeus runs to the road by which Jesus will pass and climbs a tree. From there he can stealthily have a glimpse on him. Yet whatever his society thinks of him, in the register of God Zacchaeus is still counted as a person. Even in the midst of the crowd of self-righteous ones his place remains marked. Indeed, in Zacchaeus is the entire humanity, you and I, in its shame of sin. However, we are not lost in a crowed; even as a sinner each person has a face and has a name.
When Jesus reaches the point where Zacchaeus is peeping down from the tree, he looks up and invites himself to his home: “‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.” It’s like telling him, I know your life and reputation, nevertheless I’m not ashamed of you. But the people murmur scandal.
This can’t be taken away from Zacchaeus
How can he be guest of a sinner? It’s the reaction of those who consider themselves not as sinful as Zacchaeus. But there is something more in this person known simply as sinner. “He is also a son of Abraham”. Perhaps, Zacchaeus also is no longer conscious of his dignity given the situation of exclusion in which he might have lived for long time. Jesus does not give a lecture on how bad Zacchaeus has been or how he should behave. He simply comes to announce to him that he too is heir of the Kingdom. Indeed, this loving presence of Jesus bears fruit.
Zacchaeus, without any pressure, comes up with new resolutions regarding his relations with the others. “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Isn’t that a kind of conversion taking place in a sinner?
Come out daughter, despite what you did you are still dear child of the father
Jesus is passing again today
Every day Jesus is passing, just close my life. Do I have the desire to meet him? What effort am I making, like Zacchaeus, to make sure I never miss even a glimpse of him? Do I have the courage to come out of my hiding?
Probably, in our own lives, we may have known the exclusion and the shame like Zacchaeus. Not only because the people around us are judgmental but perhaps because we have distanced ourselves from others by our lifestyle that may be antisocial. And consequently, maybe, we have lost the sense of who we are. Hence, this story of Zacchaeus comes to us as an encouragement; assuring us that we are still beloved sons and daughters of God. It’s up to us to welcome this message of hope and act on it in response like Zacchaeus. Whatever our lifestyle today, in us lies hidden the desire to see God. Jesus comes to activate this devout appeal in us.
Announcers of Good news, missionaries of mercy
Aren’t there other Zacchaeus around us? Depending on their social standing maybe they are shy to come out, not sure how they will be received. Yet, in them there’s surely the desire of a new life. Before such persons, we need to check the language we speak to them and how we look at them. Does our presence among them announce the loving God or the accusing God?
Yes, Jesus shows us the face of God whose loving mercy is praised in the first reading. He loves all human beings because he created them all. Even those whose moral life is questionable remain his children. He loves them and keeps them alive. That calls for action on our part.
The jubilee year is not the time that we become merely consumers of God’s mercy. We are called also to be merciful to others like the heavenly Father is merciful to us. In that way, we become missionaries of mercy, as pope Francis would say.
Response to God’s bounty
In the world where we are accepted and loved for what we do –the logic of remuneration- the Gospel invites us to taste the cost-free love of God. And I if convert it’s not because I want to meet the conditions in order to be loved. Rather, my transformation comes from the awareness that I’m loved.
Hurry, get onto the road and let yourself be met by Jesus
The Good News for me
Jesus has come not judge or to reproach but “to seek out and to save the lost.” The sinner is not Zacchaeus out there; I’m the sinner. I’m the lost one. Jesus has come for me. He comes to tell me: “Today salvation has come to this house, because” you also are son, you are daughter, of Abraham.
We pray that Jesus may meet us also on the road of our lives and save from any form of exclusion and shame so that we taste the joy of rediscovering who we are –beloved children of the Father.
If you believe in the loving mercy of God -share this word to others: https://singlehumanity.com/2016/10/27/homily-31-sunday-c-zacchaeus-come-down-beloved-son/)