November 2, 2013

31st Sunday - C


The Joy of God’s Forgiveness

There are two conflicting reactions to Jesus and his treatment of Zacchaeus.

The people who are with Jesus “begin to grumble” because he is going to the house of a sinner.

Prior to this incident, this kind of reaction was typical of the Pharisees and scribes when they criticized Jesus for welcoming, and for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners. [1]

This time, they “all” grumble.  And in this case, the pronoun “they” refers to the disciples and all those who have been traveling with Jesus as he continues his journey to Jerusalem.

Why do they all grumble?  Is it because unlike other tax collectors who Jesus reaches out to before, Zacchaeus is a big time “bad guy”?  He is “the chief tax collector.”  His crime is well known.   Or is it because Zacchaeus seems to get off the hook too easily?  Probably both!

Zacchaeus, on the contrary, “receives Jesus with joy.”

Like his fellow tax collector in the parable of last week’s Gospel passage (Luke 18: 9-14), Zacchaeus acknowledges that he is a sinner.  He climbs the tree “for he is short in stature.”  But can this explanation also indicate his moral stature in the eyes of the people around Jesus?  Morally, he surely is “short in stature.”  He probably knows that he does not belong in that crowd. 

And like the other tax collector, Zacchaeus accepts God’s mercy.  As a result, he can “receive [Jesus] with joy.”

To admit that one is a sinner, and to accept God’s forgiveness are the conditions of joy.

[1] Luke 5:30 and 15:2, Footnote, The New American Bible, Revised Edition, 2011.

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