Missionary Meditation for Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
Saint Marcian, Bishop of Syracuse and martyr; Blessed Benvenuta Bojani OP, Virgin
2 Thes 1:11-2:2;
I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God
BIBLICAL-MISSIONARY COMMENTARY (Meditations by Pierre Diarra)
Who should be listened to and what should be heard? Those who recriminate and who seem to watch what others do? Those who try to convert, like Zacchaeus, whatever their situation? Is Jesus addressing everyone when he invites them to conversion? What do those who recriminate say, many of them according to the evangelist? It is “all of them”, or at least most of them: “He went to stay with a man who is a sinner. What is meant and implied? The “well-behaved” or “good people” do not go to just anyone. If a person appears to be well behaved, he should not associate with people of questionable behaviour. They should not, it is thought, allow themselves to be influenced to act badly. But should we separate the good from the bad? How can Christian mission be lived out if the people who carry the Gospel distance themselves from those who need the Lord’s forgiveness? Moreover, people who are well regarded by those around them, who try to act well, to love God and their neighbours, can make mistakes, lack love, and therefore need the Lord’s forgiveness.
Let us listen to what Zacchaeus said to the Lord: “Behold, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor, and if I have wronged anyone, I will repay him four times as much. Zacchaeus, whose name means “the righteous”, is a beautiful example of liberating and joyful repentance. By confessing his faults and showing a firm desire to make reparation, he confesses the love of God. He wants to acknowledge before the Lord and before the people who are with him that he is a sinner and that he needs salvation. He seems to affirm that forgiveness is given to us by the Lord Jesus before whom he acknowledges that he has wronged people. He wants to give back four times as much, as if he wanted to share the benefits of his unjustly acquired gains. One might say: with all that he has stolen, he can do that; but it is not so simple; it takes courage to be just and even to go beyond that. By doing this, Zacchaeus wants to show not only that we must opt for justice, but also try to go further, that is, to follow the paths of a love that has no limits. We are oriented towards the love of God, which is the strongest and which pushes us to go ever further in the acts of love that we perform.
To confess the love of God is to proclaim aloud, with a certain exultation, that God has reached me, poor sinner that I am. The name of my God is Jesus, which means God saves. This God did not come for the righteous but for sinners. To confess the love of a God who is at work in my life is to confess the future that God is opening for me, with my brothers and sisters. It is a God whose mercy reaches me, but also all human beings, all those who acknowledge their faults and sincerely ask for forgiveness. I confess that I am a sinner, but above all I confess that God is Love, Mercy; I acknowledge that forgiveness has reached me, and that God is concerned about my salvation, my future. I don’t just say “I did this, I did that and it’s bad...”, especially when I go before the priest for the sacrament of reconciliation; I also say: God loves me, he calls me to live this, that and here is where I am and how I want to move forward.
I am aware of God’s love, aware of a God who forgives. I meet a God who loves me; I have not yet arrived in my walk towards holiness, towards this thrice holy God. But I can move forward; I have not said my last word and neither has God. I know that his love and forgiveness are with me on my journey as a man or woman. Jesus is with us every day until the end of time (Mt 28:20), even though he may be rejected or welcomed, in agony or “re-crucified” (Heb 6:6), without ever ceasing to be risen and to be-with-us in various ways (see Michel Fédou, Jésus Christ au fil des siècles, Paris, Cerf, 2019, p. 491).
Recognising my sin and asking God for forgiveness is an expression of taking responsibility for my history in relation to salvation in Jesus Christ. Asking for forgiveness is not about settling accounts. It is a matter of saying in confidence: Oh Lord, you love me; forgive me for what I have done and open a future that will allow me to walk with you in hope and love. The confession of my sin is also a confession of my faith which can take the form of a creed, a song, a thanksgiving... The confession of my sin helps me to feel loved, forgiven, encouraged to continue my efforts to love better, to believe better and to hope with confidence. Because God loves us, each of us uniquely, each of us must therefore feel at ease with ourselves, our limitations, our faults and even our failings. We must not be discouraged in the search for the true thirsts for truth and love. Forgiveness roots us in this search and encourages us to forgive in turn: forgive us our trespasses and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
Listen to what Jesus says about Zacchaeus: “Today salvation has come to this house, for he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost. Let us pray, following the apostle Paul, that our God will find us worthy of the call he has made to each of us. Let us pray that by his power he will enable everyone to accomplish all the good that each of us desires, so that faith may be made active.
With the psalmist, let us become aware of the goodness and mercy of our God. For the Lord sustains all those who fall and lifts all those who are afflicted. With our eyes on him, we are all invited to hope. He gives us life, the world, intelligence, food always. He graciously satisfies all that lives. The Lord is just in all his ways, faithful in all he does. He is close to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth. He answers the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry: he saves them. Lord, let your love be upon us, as our hope is in you. Let us dare to bless the name of the Lord, always and forever! Let us dare to praise his name always and forever. He alone deserves praise, for his greatness and his love know no bounds. Let us dare to praise his works, his mercy and proclaim his exploits. May this keep us on the right path, the path of holiness, even if it requires a lot of effort. Let us repeat the story of his wonders, his forgiveness, and let our whole being know how to give thanks to him.
Useful points to consider:
Pope Francis, Angelus, St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 3 November 2019
Today’s Gospel (cf. Lk 19: 1-10) places us in the footsteps of Jesus Who, on His way to Jerusalem, stopped in Jericho. There was a great crowd to welcome Him, including a man named Zacchaeus, the head of the “publicans”, that is, of those Jews who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman Empire. […]. When Jesus comes close, he looks up and sees Him (cf. v. 5).
And this is important: the first glance is not from Zacchaeus, but from Jesus, who among the many faces that surrounded Him – the crowd – seeks precisely that one. The merciful gaze of the Lord reaches us before we ourselves realize that we need it in order to be saved. And with this gaze of the divine Master there begins the miracle of the conversion of the sinner. Indeed, Jesus calls to him, and He calls him by his name […].He does not reproach him, He does not deliver a “sermon” to him; He tells him that he must go to Him: “he must”, because it is the will of the Father. […]
Jesus’ acceptance and attention to him lead him to a clear change of mentality: in just a moment he realized how petty life is when it revolves around money, at the cost of stealing from others and receiving their contempt. Having the Lord there, in his house, makes him see everything with different eyes, even with a little of the tenderness with which Jesus looked at him. And his way of seeing and using money also changes: the gesture of grabbing is replaced by that of giving. […] Zacchaeus discovers from Jesus that it is possible to love gratuitously: until this moment he was mean, but now he becomes generous; he had a taste for amassing wealth, now he rejoices in distributing. By encountering Love, by discovering that he is loved despite his sins, he becomes capable of loving others, making money a sign of solidarity and communion.
Pope Francis, Angelus, St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 30 October 2016
Guided by mercy, Jesus looks for him precisely. And when he enters Zacchaeus’ house he says: “Today, salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (vv. 9-10). Jesus’ gaze goes beyond sins and prejudices. And this is important! We must learn this. Jesus’ gaze […] sees the person through the eyes of God, who does not stop at past faults, but sees the future good; Jesus is not resigned to closing, but always opens, always opens new spaces of life; he does not stop at appearances, but looks at the heart. And here he sees this man’s wounded heart: wounded by the sin of greed, by the many terrible things that Zacchaeus had done. […]
Sometimes we try to correct or convert a sinner by scolding him, by pointing out his mistakes and wrongful behaviour. Jesus’ attitude toward Zacchaeus shows us another way: that of showing those who err their value, the value that God continues to see in spite of everything, despite all their mistakes. This may bring about a positive surprise, which softens the heart and spurs the person to bring out the good that he has within himself. It gives people the confidence which makes them grow and change. This is how God acts with all of us: he is not blocked by our sin, but overcomes it with love and makes us feel nostalgia for the good. We have all felt this nostalgia for the good after a mistake. And this is what God Our Father does, this is what Jesus does. There is not one person who does not have some good quality. And God looks at this in order to draw that person away from evil.
Benedict XVI, Angelus, St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 31 October 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters!
The Evangelist St Luke pays special attention to the theme of Jesus' mercy. In fact, in his narration we find some episodes that highlight the merciful love of God and of Christ, who said that he had come to call, not the just, but sinners (cf. Lk 5:32). Among Luke's typical accounts there is that of the conversion of Zacchaeus, which is read in this Sunday's Liturgy. […]
God excludes no one, neither the poor nor the rich. God does not let himself be conditioned by our human prejudices, but sees in everyone a soul to save and is especially attracted to those who are judged as lost and who think themselves so. Jesus Christ, the Incarnation of God, has demonstrated this immense mercy, which takes nothing away from the gravity of sin, but aims always at saving the sinner, at offering him the possibility of redemption, of starting again from the beginning, of converting. In another passage of the Gospel Jesus states that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Mt 19:23). In the case of Zacchaeus we see that precisely what seems impossible actually happens: “He”, St Jerome comments, “gave away his wealth and immediately replaced it with the wealth of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Homily on Psalm 83:3). And St Maximus of Turin adds: “Riches, for the foolish, feed dishonesty, but for the wise they are a help to virtue; for the latter they offer a chance of salvation, for the former they procure a stumbling block and perdition” (Sermons, 95).
Dear Friends, Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus and he converted because Jesus first welcomed him! He did not condemn him but he met his desire for salvation. Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, perfect model of communion with Jesus, to be renewed by his love, so that we too may experience the joy of being visited by the Son of God, of being renewed by his love and of transmitting his mercy to others.
 We offer for this Sunday the meditation of Prof. Pierre Diarra of PMU France, taking the opportunity to thank him again sincerely for this text. He wrote, at our request, the liturgical commentaries for all the days of the missionary month of October 2022, sent by email to the PMS national directors at the beginning of this year for their use in missionary animation.