Wis. 11:22-12:2; 2 Thess. 1:11-2:2; Lk. 19:1-10
Today's First Reading from the Book of Wisdom speaks of the mercy of God for all the things that He created. Keeping in mind the size of the universe, the endless space that stretches out beyond our imagination, to the Lord God, the earth is like a speck that tips the scale or like a morning dew that falls on the ground. With the present knowledge of the infinite number of mega galaxies, and the theory of multiverse the position of the Earth will be less than a dot with a needle. And if the earth is so small the size of a human being cannot be imagined. The Biblical writer affirms that still God shows mercy on us.
"God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life." In His infinite mercy towards all, the Lord God overlooks the sins of the people so that all may repent. This is the message oftoday’s Gospel reading.
When Jesus entered Jericho, He came upon Zacchaeus who was a rich and a chief tax collector. Zacchaeus had heard that Jesus was coming and out of curiosity, he wanted to see Him. But, with the large crowd that was present and Zacchaeus being a short man, it was rather difficult for him to get a glimpse of Jesus. So what did he do? In his determination to see what Jesus looked like, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree. Zacchaeus had no trouble climbing because the sycamore tree has a short trunk and wide sideways branches that made it easy to climb.
When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, 'Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.'
So Zacchaeus hurried down and was happy to welcome Jesus. All who saw it began to grumble and said, 'He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.'
Knowing that Zacchaeus was a dishonest tax collector, they did not agree with Jesus' choice of a place to stay. In their eyes, Zacchaeus, like all tax collectors, was a sinner. And so they whispered among themselves. But When Zacchaeus encountered the holiness of Jesus there followed a total human change of heart. Zacchaeus repented of his sins. He said to Jesus, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much."
We encounter Jesus in the sacrament of confession. When we encounter Jesus this change is expected to take place. We repeat the act of contrition. “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins…. I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more. But when we come out we will remain the old person. Nothing changes.
Zacchaeus stands before us as the epitome of contrition. 'Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.'
Jesus response was simple. “Today salvation has come to this house”. We too will hear the same words of Jesus if we approach the confessional with the same spirit.
Zacchaeus confessed his sins, just as people do today. After this, Zacchaeus resolved to fix his sins and undo the harm he did to others.
A man in Amsterdam feels the need to confess, so he goes to the priest. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. During world war II, I hid a refugee in my attic."
"Well," answers the priest, "that's not a sin."
"But I made him agree to pay me 20 guilders for every week he stayed."
"I admit that wasn't good, but you did it for a good cause."
"Oh, thank you, Father. That eases my mind. I have one more question."
"What is that? my son?"
"Do I have to tell him the war is over?"
When Jesus meets us in the Sacrament of confession, we should be able to say like Zaccheaus, “If I have cheated anyone, I will pay back. If I have offended anyone I will fix it. If I have gone against any commandment of God and the church, I will resolve it.”
The Bible tells us the story of the paralyzed man. Four men came to Jesus carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
Today in the confessional we hear the consoling words of Jesus through the priest, “Your sins are forgiven; go, and do not sin again.”