As we listen to or watch the news, we may become very disenchanted and negative in our view of the world. It is not uncommon to hear people say, "The world is going to hell in a hand basket," or "God must be getting very angry with us when He sees all that is going on." Our Scripture readings today give us an insight into how God views His creation, as imperfect as we are.
Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom may surprise us when the author writes speaking to God: "You love all things and loathe nothing that you have made, for what you hated, you would not have fashioned." In other words, "God don't make no junk," to quote some unknown but profound armchair theologian. The author of the Book of Wisdom must have been thinking of the story of creation in which God looked at His creation and "saw that it was good." God creates only what is good; it is man or woman that creates what is bad. That's what Adam and Eve did when they used their gift of free will to go against God. And yet God did not condemn His creation. He immediately promised to redeem it one day.
But how does God deal with the junk Adam and Eve created and that that we continue to create in our lives by our own sinfulness? The author of Wisdom tells us, ""But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord, lover of souls." You see, God loves His creation and all that is in it. He is patient and merciful—"Therefore, you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord." This is our God—loving, compassionate, forgiving and merciful! A God of unconditional love.
Zacchaeus is a wonderful example of what the author of Wisdom is talking about today. Zacchaeus is a tax collector and we all know about how they operated and how their Jewish brothers and sisters regarded them. Zacchaeus was not only a tax collector; he was a chief tax collector which allowed him to cheat twice over. Lots of junk in this guy's life. Yet something about Jesus attracted him to go and see Him. But he had one one problem—he was short and he couldn't see Jesus because of the large crowd. So he climbed a tree to see Jesus better and low and behold doesn't Jesus look up at him and very pointedly invites himself to Zacchaeus's hose for dinner.
You see, God created Zacchaeus and knew that in his heart he was searching for the truth and for integrity. Did you notice how the others grumbled and passed judgment on Zacchaeus when they heard Jesus invite himself to dinner with a sinner? As the first reading stated, "You have mercy on all...and you overlook people's sins that they may repent." And indeed did Zacchaeus repent—he offered to repay restitution to those he cheated well over the required amount. Ironically, it appeared Jesus was inviting Himself into the home of Zacchaeus but in reality, He was inviting Zacchaeus into His own Sacred Heart, the heart of love, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy.
And that, my good people, is the message of today's Scriptures. Jesus loves each and every one of us personally, not as a group ,but uniquely as individuals. He is willing to forgive us for whatever junk we have created in our lives because we are not junk ourselves. We have been created in the image of God. We are very sacred to Him. He simply asks us to repent and accept His love: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has planned for those who love Him."
Zacchaeus was drawn to Jesus by God's grace and he responded with love and repentance because he trusted in what Jesus could offer him. That is all God asks of us as well.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has spoken and written much on the mercy of God since his election as pope. I would like to read a short section of one of the homilies he gave last March. His remarks echo the meaning of today's Scripture readings.:
"It is not easy to entrust oneself to God's mercy, because it is an abyss beyond our comprehension. But we must! ... "Oh, I am a great sinner!" "All the better! Go to Jesus: he likes you to tell him these things!" He forgets, he has a very special capacity for forgetting. He forgets, he kisses you, he embraces you and he simply says to you: "Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more" (Jn 8:11). — Homily on March 17, 2013
That is exactly what Jesus did for Zacchaeus in today's Gospel; Zacchaeus trusted himself to the mercy of Jesus and salvation came to him. Jesus will do the same for us. He extends his mercy to us explicitly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
My good people, today and at every Eucharist, we meet the loving, compassionate and merciful Jesus, as we become one with Him in Holy Communion. We don't have to climb a tree to see Him. We are in HIS house and He will come into our hearts in just a few moments. I would leave us with this question to think about, then. What do WE have to say to him today when He comes?