Read: Wisdom 11:22-12:2, Ps. 145:1-2,8-11,13b-14, 2 Thess. 1:11-2:2. Luke 19:1-10
“Today salvation has come to this house since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:9-10)
Last Sunday, Jesus told us the story of two men who went to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee who considered himself righteous but ended up praying to himself. The other was a tax collector who couldn’t lift his eyes to heaven but stood at a distance and beat his chest saying: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” As the Psalmist sings: “The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17).
Jesus told us that the tax collector went home justified because he humbled himself and was sorry for his sins. In today’s Gospel passage, we see another example of a man who humbled himself before God. Apart from acknowledging his sinfulness, he went on to promise a fourfold restitution. Truly, God pays attention to the humble. There are so many lessons for us to learn today.
1. We Serve a Merciful God.
There is no human being that is beyond the mercy of God. Our first reading today teaches us that God is merciful to all; he overlooks our sins and does not hate what He has created. For Zacchaeus’ confession and repentance, Jesus said: “Today, salvation has come to this house.” Indeed, God takes “no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11).
There is more joy in heaven over a repentant sinner than over ninety-nine who have no need of repentance. God is happy when we repent. Knowing that we serve a merciful God, we must avoid judging others like those who were already condemning Jesus for going to the house of Zacchaeus to eat. Learn to look inward rather than pointing fingers at others.
2. Love Comes First.
St. Paul told us: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal… if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
From His encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus teaches us today that in winning a soul for God, love must come first. Jesus showed Zacchaeus so much love and honored him by going to eat in Zacchaeus' home. In this way, even without preaching a single verse from the scripture, Zacchaeus was moved to repentance. In truth, the best sermons are not preached with words. Without first loving a person, there is no amount of preaching that can convert that soul to God.
3. God Wants to See Your Efforts.
The saying is very true that “Grace builds on nature.” In our journey to repentance, God is always very interested in seeing our efforts. As one great saint puts it, “the God who made you without your permission will not save you without your cooperation.” Zacchaeus made an effort to see Jesus; knowing that he was a short man and this was an obstacle for him, he ran on ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. Jesus saw his effort and rewarded it by deciding to stay at his house. Indeed, when the student is ready; the teacher appears. God wants to see your efforts.
Do you aspire to sainthood? Then be like Zacchaeus, apply some common sense, examine yourself, find out your deficiency (obstacles blocking you from God), and locate and climb your sycamore tree. Climbing the sycamore implies making up for your deficiencies, it implies going for confession, and it implies cutting off from your life whatever leads you to sin.
As Jesus says: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out … And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30). Stop blaming anybody or anything for your sins. Stop making excuses and start making efforts.
Another important lesson we learn from Zacchaeus is the importance of restitution. It is not enough to say I have sinned, we must make efforts to return, to restore, and to repair the damage caused by our sins. Repentance is not just a feeling of being sorry, it requires restitution.
4. Learn to Listen to Your Conscience.
Our first reading from the book of Wisdom perfectly defines conscience in this way: “For your immortal spirit is in all things. Therefore, you correct little by little those who trespass, and you remind and warn them of the things through which they sin, so that they may be freed from wickedness” (Wisdom 12:1-2). In every human being, no matter how bad he or she may be, there is always that tiny voice that never stops speaking; reprimanding us when we have done wrong and praising us when we do right.
This was the voice in the mind of Zacchaeus until that fateful day when Jesus entered the city of Jericho. In our ever-busy world today, we tend to act before we think and we never create time for silent meditation. We may have grown used to not listening to it but the truth is that conscience never dies.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, be merciful to me a sinner, and cleanse me from the blindness of pride. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (31st Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Wisdom 11:22-12:2, Ps. 145:1-2,8-11,13b-14, 2 Thess. 1:11-2:2. Luke 19:1-10)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu