Homily - Zacchaeus - Sun, Oct 30

Below are citations from St.  John Paul 2's letter that Fr. uses in the Homily


by St. John Paul 2

5. The story,... presents the meeting between Jesus and Zacchaeus as if it happened by chance. ... In climbing the sycamore tree, Zacchaeus seems prompted by curiosity alone. At times, God's meetings with man do appear to be merely fortuitous. But nothing that God does happens by chance.

Coming for different reasons:

Some come only because they feel the need to be listened to.

Others because they want advice about something.

Others have a psychological need to be released from burdensome feelings of guilt.

Many, on the other hand, feel a real need to restore their relationship with God, but they confess without being really aware of the obligations which this entails. They may make a poor examination of conscience because they have little knowledge of the implications of a moral life inspired by the Gospel.

"When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today'" (Lk 19:5).

If there had not been,... the "surprise" of Christ looking up at him, perhaps he would have remained a silent spectator of the Lord moving through the streets of Jericho. Jesus would have passed by, not into, his life. Zacchaeus had no idea that the curiosity which had prompted him to do such an unusual thing was already the fruit of a mercy which had preceded him, attracted him and was about to change him in the depths of his heart.

Every encounter with someone wanting to go to confession, even when the request is somewhat superficial because it is poorly motivated and prepared, can become, through the surprising grace of God, that "place" near the sycamore tree where Christ looked up at Zacchaeus.

For Zacchaeus, it must have been an stunning experience to hear himself called by his name, a name which many of his townsmen spoke with contempt. Now he hears it spoken in a tone of tenderness, expressing not just trust but familiarity, insistent friendship.

[9... the deep echo in our souls when we hear ourselves called by name. When we realize that we are known and accepted as we are, with our most individual traits, we feel truly alive.]

Yes, Jesus speaks to Zacchaeus like an old friend, forgotten maybe, but a friend who has nonetheless remained faithful, and who enters with the gentle force of affection into the life and into the home of his re-discovered friend: "Make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today" (Lk 19:5).

6. Despite all the murmuring of human malice, the home of this sinner is about to become a place of revelation, the scene of a miracle of mercy. True, this will not happen if Zacchaeus does not free his heart from the bonds of egoism and from his unjust and fraudulent ways. But mercy has already come to him as a gratuitous and overflowing gift.

Mercy has preceded him!

This is what happens in every sacramental encounter. We must not think that it is the sinner, through his own independent journey of conversion, who earns mercy. On the contrary, it is mercy that impels him along the path of conversion. Left to himself, man can do nothing and he deserves nothing. Before being man's journey to God, confession is God's arrival at a person's home.

7. "I must stay at your house".

God is mercifully reaching down to [penitents], stretching out his hand, not to strike but to save.


8. [God's offer of mercy is only the begining. it...]

reaches fulfilment to the extent that it meets a response in the human being. In fact, the forgiveness granted in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not some external action, a kind of legal "remission of the penalty", but a real encounter of the penitent with God, who restores the bond of friendship shattered by sin.

we need to welcome God's merciful embrace, overcoming all the resistance caused by sin.

This is what happens in the case of Zacchaeus. Aware that he is now being treated as a "son", he begins to think and act like a son, and this he shows in the way he rediscovers his brothers and sisters. Beneath the loving gaze of Christ, the heart of Zacchaeus warms to love of neighbour. From a feeling of isolation, which had led him to enrich himself without caring about what others had to suffer, he moves to an attitude of sharing. This is expressed in a genuine "division" of his wealth: "half of my goods to the poor". The injustice done to others by his fraudulent behaviour is atoned for by a fourfold restitution: "If I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold" (Lk 19:8). And it is only at this point that the love of God achieves its purpose, and salvation is accomplished: "Today salvation has come to this house" (Lk 19:9).

CCC Satisfaction  1459 Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much.

balance between two opposite extremes: severity and laxity.

The first fails to take account of the early part of the story of Zacchaeus: mercy comes first, encouraging conversion and valuing even the slightest progress in love, because the Father wants to do the impossible to save the son who is lost: "The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost" (Lk 19:10).

The other of the two extremes, laxity, fails to take into account the fact that the fullness of salvation, not just offered but also accepted, the salvation which truly heals and restores, involves a genuine conversion to the demands of God's love. If Zacchaeus had welcomed the Lord into his home without coming to an attitude of openness to love and reparation for the harm done, without a firm commitment to living a new life, he would not have received in the depths of his heart the forgiveness which the Lord had offered him with such concern.

Severity crushes people and drives them away.

Laxity is misleading and deceptive.

Clearly, when there is no sorrow and amendment, the confessor is obliged to tell the penitent that he or she is not yet ready for absolution. If absolution were given to those who actually say that they have no intention of making amends, the rite would become a mere fiction; indeed, it would look almost like magic, capable perhaps of creating the semblance of peace, but certainly not that deep peace of conscience which God's embrace guarantees.


10 ...It can happen that in the face of complex contemporary ethical problems the faithful leave the confessional with somewhat confused ideas, especially if they find that confessors are not consistent in their judgments. The truth is that those who fulfil this delicate ministry in the name of God and of the Church have a specific duty not to promote and, even more so not to express in the confessional, personal opinions that do not correspond to what the Church teaches and professes. Likewise, a failure to speak the truth because of a misconceived sense of compassion should not be taken for love. We do not have a right to minimize matters of our own accord, even with the best of intentions. Our task is to be God's witnesses, to be spokesmen of a mercy that saves even when it shows itself as judgment on man's sin. "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord', shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 7:21).     

God offers His mercy. But we are free to respond or not.

In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is coming to visit our home, our heart today

Let us receive Him and listen to what His Holy Spirit wants to say to you.