Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

31st Sunday C

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk 19:10).

The story is once told about a mother who once approached Napoleon seeking pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed certain offenses and that justice demands death. “But I don’t ask for justice,” the mother explained. “I plead for mercy.” “But your son does not deserve mercy,” Napoleon replied. “Sir,” the woman cried, “it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for.” After hearing what the mother of the criminal had said, the emperor told the woman, “Well, then, I will have mercy.” And he spared the woman’s son from death penalty (CTTO: I can’t recall the source).

Like the criminal son of the woman in the story, Zacchaeus in today’s gospel, who is known to be a public sinner, did not only become the recipient of God’s mercy, but above all he had a personal encounter with Mercy, for Mercy is the other name of God (Pope Francis The Name of God is Mercy, 2016). It was Zacchaeus’ personal encounter with Mercy that made him a changed person. This prompted Jesus to say, “Today Salvation has come to this house” (Lk19:9).

With this gospel we may ask ourselves: What is God’s message for us? What are the lessons that we can learn from the readings, especially from the gospel? I find that there are three important messages and lessons that we can learn from the readings:

Firstly, God is merciful. The Book of Wisdom says, “But because you are almighty, you are merciful to all; you overlook sins and give your children time to repent” (Wis 11:23). The mercy of God gives sinners the courage and strength to rise up from being knocked down by sin and guilt. The image of Jesus who was walking on the street and of Zacchaeus who climbed on a tree are images that convey this truth; God has been searching for the lost and the lost reaches out to God.

Secondly, no matter how busy we are, we can always find ways for God. This is something that we can learn from Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is not only a person of short stature and busy, but also a man who is full of guilt. He knows that he is a sinner and an encounter with Jesus who is known to be the Messiah and Holy will only make him guiltier. However, he did not allow himself to be dragged away by shame, guilt, sin and office schedules. He finds ways for Jesus. These attitudes help us reflect on our own personal dynamics. Let us ask ourselves; what are the things that prevent me from reaching out to Jesus?

Thirdly, being sorry requires concrete action. Zacchaeus in the gospel says, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much” (Lk 19:8). Being forgiven is a gift. Nonetheless, every gift is meant to be shared and Zacchaeus understood it well. He became generous and merciful because he received so many blessings.

Let us always remember that God is merciful. He is always on the move to search for the lost, the tired and the sick. He just wants us to be like Zacchaeus who did not allow guilt, shame, and sin to control him, but His Mercy. Amen!

Fr. Ramil Hamil, MSP

Diocese of Auckland, New Zealand

 


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