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(Part 8)


November 17, 2015
Today’s gospel: Luke 19:1-10

Zacchaeus was considered a great sinner by the Jews, such that when Jesus said he would stay at his house, “they began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.’” (v.7). Zacchaeus was “a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man” (v. 2). Tax collectors were despised because they collected taxes for the Romans, the enemies of the Jews, and added on to the taxes to be collected for their own pockets. They were thus considered thieves and traitors, and of course, sinners.

But Jesus was merciful to him. Why? For one thing, “because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.” (v.9b). God is merciful to all. Why? Because we are all His children. God desires to gather His children back to Himself. That is why He loves sinners and saints alike. No one is outside the scope of the mercy of God.

Second, Jesus came precisely “to seek and to save what was lost.” (v.10). Jesus suffered a horrible death and gave his very life in order that all might be saved. The icon of mercy is the crucifix. God took the initiative, and Jesus gave his life for us, even when we were sinners, and in fact, the ones who sent him to the cross. Perhaps Zacchaeus never dared to approach Jesus, perhaps he never imagined he could be forgiven his sins, but it was Jesus who reached out to him, as he “looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.’” (v.5).

Third, we know about the abounding mercy of God, but we also must know that in every sinner is a soul that longs for God. Zacchaeus “was seeking to see who Jesus was” (v.3a). The sinner might be caught in a rut, might be unable to extricate himself for his serious wrongdoing, might not have hope of ever leaving his life of sin. Zacchaeus “could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.” (v.3b). The sinner knows he falls short of God’s way of life, and even in a nudging of conscience to amend his life, might be gripped by the world and continue to be lost in the crowd.

Fourth, the mercy of God is beyond earthly value. Wealth, power and position had been important for Zacchaeus. But now, in response to God’s mercy, he offers to give half of his possessions to the poor and to repay four times over anyone from whom he had extorted anything (v.8). We need to respond to God’s mercy. We need to repent of sin and amend our lives. We need to live no longer for ourselves or for what the world offers, but only for God.

Let us look to God’s mercy. Let us do what we need to do in order to have a true encounter with Jesus. If we need to do something drastic or unusual like climbing a sycamore tree (v.4), let us do so. If we need to leave our earthly preoccupations in order to encounter Jesus, let us do so. If we need to rectify wrongs done and let go of material attachments, let us do so. Then we will experience God’s mercy. Then Jesus will say to us, “Today salvation has come to this house” (v.9a).

“And he came down quickly and received him with joy.” (v.6).

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