THEME: ACCESSING THE MERCY OF GOD – THE ZACCHAEUS WAY
READINGS: Wisdom 11:22-12:2/ 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2/ Luke 19:1-10
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
In the story about Zacchaeus’ experience of God’s mercy through Jesus Christ, we identify some key points about how we can enjoy this grace.
THE MERCY OF GOD
Today’s readings provide us with some of the reasons why God is merciful. Firstly, God is merciful to the whole of creation, because it belongs to Him (cf. Wis. 11:26). Secondly, it is because He loves what He has created (cf. Wis. 11:24). Thirdly, it is because God is almighty (cf. Wis. 11:23). That is, because He has absolute power over all and He can exercise it at any moment, He is able to overlook our faults and give us time to repent (cf. Wis. 11:21, 23). Fourthly, it is because God desires to save us through His Son Jesus Christ (cf. Luke 19:10).
ACCESSING GOD’S MERCY
Today’s gospel reading about Zacchaeus provides us with an example of how to access God’s mercy through Christ. Let us consider this further. Firstly, Zacchaeus was conscious of his small stature when he sought to see Jesus. Similarly, we should be conscious of our spiritual shortcomings (i.e., sins) in order to access God’s mercy.
Secondly, though Zacchaeus sought to see Jesus out of curiosity, he eventually experienced God’s mercy through Him. We can also access God’s mercy through Jesus. Thus, Pope Francis assures us: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. …. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth. … Jesus of Nazareth, by His words, His actions, and His entire person reveals the mercy of God” (Misericordiae Vultus, no. 1).
Thirdly, Zacchaeus identified the way Jesus would pass. Similarly, we should know the way Jesus passes to make God’s mercy accessible to us. It is no other way than “The Way of the Cross”. That is, it is through Jesus’ suffering, death on the cross and resurrection that God’s mercy is abundantly made available to humankind.
Fourthly, Zacchaeus climbed up a Sycamore tree in order to see Jesus. We have to climb up, not a physical tree, but the “tree of mercy”, which is the cross of Jesus. His cross is the tree of mercy because it was while on it that He asked the Father to forgive us (cf. Luke 23:34); and it is His sacrifice on the cross which takes away our sins. We climb the tree of mercy not physically but by faith. On Mount Calvary, the repentant thief demonstrated how to climb the tree of mercy by faith. That is, while he could not physically move from his cross to Jesus’ cross, he believed that in the crucified Lord he could access the blessing of Paradise (including God’s forgiveness). Let us, likewise, climb up the tree of mercy.
Fifthly, when Zacchaeus encountered Jesus, he became more conscious of his spiritual shortcomings, e.g., his lack of charity to the poor and cheating in his business (cf. Luke 19:8). Similarly, when we encounter Jesus while seeking God’s mercy, we become more conscious of our sins and/or their gravity. Sometimes, this leads us to shed tears.
Sixthly, Zacchaeus confessed his sins and resolved to do better: he would give half of his property to the poor and reimburse fourfold anyone he had cheated (cf. Luke 19:8). Similarly, let us confess our sins, make amends for any damage caused and do all the penance given by the priest, Christ’s representative.
Beloved, God is awesomely merciful. Following the example of Zacchaeus, let us access God’s mercy through Jesus. And as Jesus called Zacchaeus by name, so He is inviting each one of us to access the Father’s mercy through Him. Finally, let us, like Zacchaeus, promptly respond to Jesus in order to enjoy God’s mercy. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John K. Louis