Thirty First Sunday in the Ordinary Time
30th October 2016
Wisdom 11:22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10.
The story of the rich tax collector Zacchaeus in the gospel of Luke is the focus of the gospel of the day. Mindful of the aversion of devout Jews for tax collectors, Jesus Christ expressed his wish to dine with Zacchaeus. While the people standing by saw a public sinner, Jesus Christ saw a lost soul tracing his way back home. The vision of faith entrusted to us by our membership in the body of Christ is always enabled to capture the soul. We resemble God in our soul and not on the body. The beauty of God residing in us blossoms in our souls. Faith is designed to see beyond the body to the place where the soul lies in order to capture this beauty. The disposition of Jesus Christ toward Zacchaeus is a sign that what he saw in him was pleasant.
While I will not praise the life of the tax collectors going by the findings of history, I will not join in condemning them either. Experience have shown that certain factors beyond our control could compel one to evil. No one is born with the intent on evil, experience is responsible for what we do next. The life of a tax collector at the time is such that repentance is quite difficult. Just as we know that most porn actors do not have a life outside of the pornographic world, such could be said about tax collectors. Having being branded public sinners, we close the door of salvation to their faces even when they have genuine intention to repent. The parable of last Sunday’s gospel makes us understand that the infant do pray to God hoping to be forgiven. Our attitude towards those in a debased situation could make repentance difficult. Unfortunately, faith is designed to capture the beauty of the soul which is always unaffected by sin.
Jesus Christ was attracted by the beauty of the soul of Zacchaeus. It did not take long for Zacchaeus to display this beauty lying inside of him. In his words, ‘…sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ Here we see his immediate response to the love shown to him by Jesus Christ. Zacchaeus stood his ground when he saw that Jesus Christ looked at him not with condemnation but love. Thus he was ready to give back all he ever stole or extorted from people. This is repentance per excellence! Christian faith is charged with love. We can trace this from the first reading where the book of Wisdom states the unconditional love of God for humanity. According to the reading, ‘…you are merciful to all, because you can do all things and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent’. If God can give us the chance to repent, how come we find it difficult to express the same to other through faith?
Our faith is questionable when it is not able to capture the beauty of the human soul. Little wonder St. Paul prays for Timothy that his faith may remain focused on the work of Christ. According to St. Paul, ‘We pray continually that our God will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfill all your desires for goodness and complete all that you have been doing through faith;…’. As Christians we also share in the mission of Christ to seek out the lost sheep of the house of Israel. We are not able to share when we do not have the faith that recognizes the beauty of the other’s soul. Zacchaeus is also a son of Abraham. Many like Zacchaeus are willing to give up their sinful ways only if we show them love. Our faith is able to capture the soul’s yearning for God. Faith without love is dead (cf: 1 Corinthians 13). The heart of Christ is open to all people. Our heart is expected to replicate this same gesture towards all people.
Anthony Ekpunobi C.M.