The Greater the Sinner, the Greater the Right

Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
•Wis 11:22-12:2
•Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
•2 Thes 1:11-2:2
•Lk 19:1-10

By Marc Massery

Zacchaeus might have been short in stature, but he wasn’t harmless. He was the chief tax collector in one of the more prosperous towns in ancient Judea. That meant he became wealthy by defrauding taxpayers — the rich and poor alike. Ancient Jewish society considered Zacchaeus and people like him virtually unlovable. They felt the same way about him as you probably feel about whichever American politician you think is most corrupt. For much of his life, however, Zacchaeus didn’t seem to care that his sins made him a social outcast, because what he cared about most was money.   

But in the process of making himself financially prosperous, Zacchaeus became spiritually poor. So, when he heard that a prophet with an affinity for outsiders was making His way through town, something stirred inside him. Tired of the cold touch of money, he yearned for a warm glance from someone who might consider him a friend. So, to get to Christ, he takes desperate action. Amid a crowd of people who hated him, Zacchaeus climbs a sycamore tree just to catch a glimpse of the Lord. 

As if Jesus were waiting for Zacchaeus to make such a move, He comes over to him and says, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." Scripture continues, "And [Zacchaeus] came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, 'He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner,'” (Lk 19:5-7). 

Despite being made a spectacle in a crowd of his enemies, Zacchaeus doesn’t show any fear or embarrassment when the Lord speaks to him. Just the opposite. In his joy and excitement, Zacchaeus promises to give half of his possessions to the poor and to pay back fourfold everything he had stolen. Zacchaeus’ whole life turns around thanks to a kind invitation from the Lord, who sees through his sinfulness. 

Today, Christ calls us to treat others as He treated Zacchaeus. No matter how sinful we may think another person is, we need to remember that all men and women are created in God’s image and likeness — all are redeemable. Saint Faustina said it best when she wrote in her Diary, “The greater the sinner, the greater his right to God’s mercy,” (423). 

The way Jesus felt about Zacchaeus couldn’t have been any more different from the way the rest of the crowd felt about him. While Zacchaeus' sinfulness caused  the crowd to hate him, it made Jesus that much more interested in ministering to him. When He did, it only took a simple act of mercy to elicit radical repentance from a man who needed God's mercy most. 

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