A Call To Conversion, 30TH OCTOBER 2016
Beloved, the Gospel reading of today gives an example of the conversion of Zacchaeus and Jesus’ attitude towards sinners for us to follow. Zacchaeus, a wealthy man and a senior tax collector, seems to have been a little boy who never grew up. Imagine Zacchaeus exposing himself to ridicule by climbing a tree in a crowded street to catch a glimpse of a preacher. It was probably the young boy in Zacchaeus that caught Jesus’ eye. For Jesus had said on another occasion: “Unless you become little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God” (Matt. 18:3). Some of us are ‘spiritual dwarfs’. Our vision is confined to eyelevel. Like Zacchaeus, we cannot see over the heads of the crowd. We must figuratively climb a tree to see Jesus. Conversion demands that we humble ourselves like little children in order to meet Jesus. The man, Zacchaeus, is rich materially but socially he is poor because he had been despised by his fellow Jews due to his work and his collaboration with the Romans. Zacchaeus might have felt lonely. He has heard of Jesus and would like to see him but unfortunately, here again his height makes this a second motive of exclusion. However, he is ready to do something about it. He climbs a sycamore tree in order to be able to see Jesus. We are called upon to remove the obstacles on our ways in order to see Jesus. Therefore, in order to experience true conversion, our short-comings should not be stumbling blocks in our lives.
Dear friends in Christ, it is Zacchaeus who took the initiative to look for Jesus while on the other hand Jesus also looked for him. This shows that the good news of the Kingdom is for everyone, especially for those who are known to be public sinners. Zacchaeus then experienced his true value before God and others. He desires to repair where harm has entered and spoiled the relationship with his neighbors. There is a certain sense of urgency that makes the experience of salvation something that has to happen “hic et nunc” (here and now). Zacchaeus had desired to see Jesus and now that the time has come, it cannot be postponed to a later date. When we take one step, God takes two steps towards us. We should urgently make personal efforts to have an encounter with the Lord. For true conversion opens the way to a new form of living. Beloved, Saint Paul in the second Reading tells the Thessalonians that he constantly prays that God may make them worthy of their Christian calling. That is why in the Gospel Jesus called out “Zacchaeus come down, hurry, because I must stay in your house today”. This is also our call for conversion. Christ wants to stay in our house, that is, in our hearts. We too must hurry and open the door for him. To be worthy of Christ’s call means that we are to be sorry for the wrongs we have done. Zacchaeus for example was sorry and promised to pay back all those whom he had cheated. He was also ready to care for the poor and give them half of his properties. Christ knew that Zacchaeus was ready to be called. We must also be ready to respond positively to God’s call. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the sacrament of reconciliation is also presented here. The third precept of the church says; “You shall confess your sins at least once a year”. After Zacchaeus had met Jesus he confessed his sins and for his penance promised to give back to the poor half of his properties and those whom he had cheated, he will pay them back in four folds. This is what is called Restitution. We are also called upon to do the same by taking the sacrament of penance and reconciliation very serious if we wish to have an encounter with Jesus. The first reading of today reminds us that “God loves all things that he had created” and the prophet Ezekiel tells us that the Lord “does not take pleasure in the death of a wicked person…” (Ezekiel 33:11). Therefore, the Lord spares even sinners and does not punish them. God condemns no one unjustly or without cause. In the light of this, Zacchaeus was not condemned by Jesus. We Christian (the new Israel) should imitate God’s mercy and learn from it. Let us learn from the example of Jesus and Zacchaeus. Jesus overlooks the wrongdoing of Zacchaeus in the hope that he will repent in an atmosphere of acceptance. Zacchaeus on the other hand met Jesus in the context of the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Let us also look at the examples of these characters in today’s Gospel in order change our way of life, by not condemning people in our communities but giving them the opportunity to repent. Like Zacchaeus, let us be humble like a little child, be determined regardless of our short-comings, and seek to meet Jesus in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation. Finally, let us respond positively to the call of God as Zacchaeus did. For this will mean a true conversion.
Call To Conversion
STAY BLESSEDBY: FR. RAPHAEL HESSAH