31st Sunday of Year C 2022
Wis 11:22—12:2; 2 Thes1:11—2:2; Luke 19:1-10
In today’s Gospel we encounter Jesus in Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. We recall that in Jericho the blind Bartimaeus was healed (Lk 18:35–37, Matt 20:29–31). The Good Samaritan helped the man who was attacked by the thieves on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho (Lk 10:29–37). Today Jesus meets the rich chief tax collector Zacchaeus in Jericho. Thus Jericho, in this regard is portrayed as a place of encountering God’s mercy. We pray that our homes may be places where we encounter God’s mercy.
Zacchaeus was prevented from seeing Jesus because of the crowd and also because of his stature. He, nonetheless was determined to see Jesus. Like that woman suffering from hemorrhages who was determined to touch the fringe of the clock of Jesus in order to get healed (Mk 5:25-34), Zacchaeus made it possible by climbing a sycamore tree. He wanted to see the Good Shepherd who came to seek and save the lost.
Jesus the Good Shepherd was looking for him. He called him to hurry and come down because he wanted to stay at his house. By so doing Jesus was knocking at the door of the heart of Zacchaeus as he says in Revelations, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me (Rev 3:20). Zacchaeus like Martha, opened the door of his heart and welcomed Jesus in his house with joy. People grumbled because Jesus was staying at the house of a sinner. Zacchaeus, a tax collector was hated by people because tax collectors were extortionists. Nonetheless, Zacchaeus, ‘a sinner,’ was able to welcome the Savior of the world in his house. He was now on the path of conversion and was ready to make restitution for whatever he defrauded other people. Zacchaeus opted for the most stringent standard of restitution found in (Ex 22:1). Today’s gospel speaks to our hearts. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us: In virtue of commutative justice, reparation for injustice committed requires the restitution of stolen goods to their owner (CCC2412).
What then is our attitude to sinners? Do we shut them out from the Church?
In the spirit of a Synodal Church – communion, participation and mission, the Church is called upon to fulfill her mission as Sacrament of Salvation. As Pope Benedict xvi says that , God speaks to humanity and saves the people of today through the Church (Celebration of First Vespers of the First Sunday of Advent1st December 2007). The Church’s mission is not to drive away sinners who are willing to repent but to speak to their hearts and bring them back to God who is rich in mercy. Today, Zacchaeus represents every sinner who is crying for salvation.
In Africa and other parts of the world we lament about corruption, today let us pray for the conversion of those who live a corrupt life and are causing untold suffering to many people. Let us forgive them when they repent. Imagine how many lives would be saved when a notorious corrupt person repents and is ready to make restitution for whatever was ill gotten. Let each person who does business be honest and seek not to cheat others. Like Zacchaeus, if we have defrauded others let us pay back. Zacchaeus like the tax collector of last Sunday Gospel invites us to pray for a contrite heart. God is ready to forgive the contrite of heart.
Zacchaeus helps us to reflect on our attitude to riches and our love for the poor. Zacchaeus was rich and was ready to detach himself from his riches. Like the Good Samaritan who was ready to part with his oil and money to help the afflicted victim of robbery, Zacchaeus was ready to give half of his property to the poor. He was unlike the rich man of Luke 18;27 who could not receive the gift of salvation because he was reluctant to share his money with the poor. Zacchaeus differed from the rich fool (Lk 12:13-21) who thought his life depended on his wealth. Zacchaeus was a perfect example of the disciple of Jesus whose life did not depend on wealth. Unlike the rich man who was unsympathetic to the poor Lazarus (Luke 16:19-21), Zacchaeus embraced the poor by sharing with them his wealth.
The story of Zacchaeus invites us to look at the poor as our brothers and sisters in the spirit of the Good Samaritan. Pope Francis exhorts us, “We incarnate the duty of hearing the cry of the poor when we are deeply moved by the suffering of others”(EG193). Pope Francis, in this year’s message for the World Day of the Poor, exhorts us to realize that, “…true wealth does not consist in storing up ‘treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal’ but rather in a reciprocal love that leads us to bear one another’s burdens in such a way that no one is left behind or excluded (Mt 6:19)” (SIXTH WORLD DAY OF THE POOR 13 November 2022).
Today’s Gospel helps us to understand that by our faith we can open our hearts to the Lord. At our baptism we professed our faith, we were therefore made sons and daughters of Abraham and were made sharers of Christ’s kingly, priestly and prophetic office. Everyday as we make a metanoia and turn away from our sins, we receive and experience the saving power of God. The words of Jesus comfort us, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk19:10). Zacchaeus received his day of salvation because he opened his heart to the Lord. He was like that lost sheep and the lost coin that was found. He was the prodigal son that had come back to the merciful father. We too, sometimes get lost in one way or the other, but through the sacrament of confession we are reconciled with the merciful Father.
May this Sunday, be the day when hear the gracious words of the Lord, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Lk19:10).
May our Mother Mary intercede for us so that we may always open our hearts to the Lord.