The Tax Collectors

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/11/13 at 12:00 AM


Once again this Sunday a tax collector figures prominently in our Gospel story. And once again mercy is shown to a tax collector, even though tax collectors were considered to be the most morally bankrupt people in ancient Hebrew society.
Today we hear the story of Zacchaeus, Jericho’s wealthy tax collector who, because of his short stature, climbs a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus as He passes through town.
Like the humble tax collector begging for mercy as he prayed in the Temple that we heard about last week, Zacchaeus, too, shows remarkable humility.
When Jesus honors him by saying He must stay at his house, Zacchaeus makes a public declaration that he will make reparation for his sins by giving half of his possessions to the poor, and by repaying 4-fold any money he has extorted.
And what does Jesus say in response? “Today salvation has come to this house”, which is wonderfully reminiscent of our Lord’s words spoken to the Good Thief as they hung together on Calvary: “This day you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
What we can see here, both with Zacchaeus and the Good Thief, is that our humility disposes our Lord to grant us His mercy! Humility makes us pleasing in God’s eyes, and it thereby gives us a claim on our Lord’s mercy.
Note as well the opening line of the Gospel: “At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.” In other words, our Lord didn’t plan on staying in Jericho; He was merely passing through.
But Jesus cannot resist an opportunity to show His mercy! Upon seeing Zacchaeus in the tree, He saw an opportunity to test him. Jesus saw the opportunity to bring a sinner to repentance.
And by deciding to make such generous restitution for his sins, Zacchaeus passes this test with flying colors, and thus he receives the gift of our Lord’s mercy.
Last Sunday I mentioned that sin should be avoided at all costs because it is so offensive to God. I mentioned that sin is the most destructive force in our world, capable of robbing a man of his eternal salvation.
Yet while sin is the most destructive force in the world, it is not the most powerful! God’s mercy is the most powerful force in our world – more powerful than any sin we can commit.
Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom speaks of God’s omnipotence in poetic fashion. We are reminded that, before our God, “the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew.”
But even though God is all-powerful, even though all things that exist only exist because God wills it, our Lord is a lover of souls. The Lord “loves all things that are,” and He “spares all things, because they are [His].”
So His omnipotence, though very real, is tempered by His mercy. Therefore, He rebukes “offenders little by little, warn[ing] them and remind[ing] them of the sins they are committing that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in [Him].”
So while God’s omnipotence shows us what God is capable of, His mercy shows us Who He Is. Our Lord’s mercy reveals His nature! And God’s perfection and love shines forth most poignantly and powerfully in His mercy!
We all know that one day we will all die and have to face Jesus as our Judge, but we shouldn’t fear this, for the Gospel tells us that He: “has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
Our Lord desires our salvation! God is a lover of souls! He calls each and every one of His children to an eternity of bliss, and so He wants us to be worthy of this calling.
But for this to happen, we’ve got to be like Zacchaeus. We’ve got to be desirous ofseeing Jesus and be willing to go to any lengths to do so.
Like Zacchaeus who descended from the sycamore at Jesus’ command, we, too, must beperfectly obedient to our Lord in all matters, most especially when He calls us toHimself.
You see, even though we are sinners, our Lord still wants to be with us, just as Hewanted to be with Zacchaeus and even asked to stay in his home.
While we cannot host our Lord for dinner, as did Zacchaeus, if we have been baptized, we host our Lord in our souls. He dwells within us! Thus, we should make our souls ahome worthy of our Lord.
Whenever we invite guests into our homes, most of us go out of our way to make ourhomes inviting and comfortable for our guests. We clean our homes and do our best tomake them look nice.
And if we are willing to go to such lengths for our fellow sinners, should we not go outof our way to make our souls a comfortable and inviting dwelling place for our Lord?
This we do by our worthy reception of the sacraments, through our constant prayer,through the cultivation of the virtues – most especially the theological virtues of faith,hope, and charity – and through the love we bear our Lord in our hearts.
Lastly, just as Zacchaeus was repentant of his sins and willing to make amends for them, we, too, must confess our sins and do penance regularly in order to make reparation forour sins.
A penance is not really a punishment for our sins, but rather a medication, a treatment,for a spiritual illness. While we tell God we’re sorry for our sins when we make ourconfession, our penance is the way we show God we’re sorry for our sins.
My dear brothers and sisters, our blessed Lord cannot resist a soul in need of His mercy,but we’ve got to be willing to accept His mercy. And this we do by following theexample of Zacchaeus.
In the spiritual life there are two constants: our sinfulness and God’s overwhelmingmercy and compassion. And as Zacchaeus shows us today, there is only one way torespond to this reality if we wish to receive God’s mercy.
We must humbly acknowledge our sins, and we must seek to make reparation for oursins. We must be desirous of seeing God, be obedient to Him, and make our souls acomfortable home for Him.
Through the intercession of Our Lady and all the angels and saints, may God make eachof us worthy of His calling so that we may enjoy His mercy at the hour of our death and His blessed company for all eternity.

03 November 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
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  1. Excellent homily. Thanks.​

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