Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Catholic News Agency published a news item that the former Serbian champion of abortion, Stojan Adasevic, who performed about 48,000 abortions in 26 years in his country, became the influential leader in the pro-life movement. While performing abortion on his cousin’s girlfriend, he saw the baby’s heart still beating. He realized then that he had killed a human being. In his dream that continued for many nights, which would wake him up in cold sweat, he saw “a beautiful field full of children and young people who were playing and laughing, from 4 to 24 years of age, but who ran away from him in fear.” Realizing they were the ones he killed, he stopped performing abortions. Accordingly, the hospital cut his salary in half, fired his daughter from her job, and did not allow his son to study in the university (November 12, 2008).
Zacchaeus said to Jesus: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over” (Lk 19:8). This was his salvation. St. Luke is teaching us that stealing, defrauding, cheating and the like, are not simply forgiven and forgotten by returning the item or restoring the equivalent of what was destroyed, but they carry with them acts that would bring healing, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, not only to the aggrieved person but also to the whole Church. Any transgression against a person is always a transgression against the whole body of Christ; and even if no person can repay God for his offense, God is patient and forgiving enough to look at repentant sinners with His heart full of love. So Zacchaeus, who probably enriched himself with the tax contributions of the rich and the lowly, promised to pay anyone he has defrauded four times as much and to give half of his wealth to the poor. Stojan Adasevic had to pay so much with the loss of half his salary, the loss of his daughter’s job and the loss of his son’s opportunity to study in the university. On top of these, Stojan made up his mind to be a staunch advocate of the pro-life movement in his communist country. This is salvation for many.
Today we are presented with the following truths:
1. To defraud or cheat someone is a selfish, personal decision, but the act always affects not only a person, but the whole Church. Even if everybody were cheating, it does not justify anyone to cheat, for it is an act against the Head, Jesus Christ. St. Paul says: “For as in one body we have many parts, and all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually parts of one another” (Rom 12:4-5).
2. Our life is a great manifestation of the patience and mercy of God, for any transgression against God is always punishable by death. Our transgressions and our awareness of the presence of the Almighty should remind us of our end. We then have to practice our sense of gratitude, for as death is punishment for sin, forgiveness and reconciliation with God and miracles of life are gifts for those who return to Him. The Book of Wisdom tells us of the mercy of God: “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! (Wis 12:2).
Zacchaeus broke the law of the rich by parting with his wealth: half to the poor and the rest to repay fourfold all he has defrauded. By parting with his wealth and influence, and by choosing to be poor, he gained the greatest influence and wealth that would lead him to eternal life. By accepting Jesus into his house and into his heart, he rocked his relationship with the leaders of the people and probably disappointed his friends, but found delight in God and His people. Everything that we do matters, and should make a difference.
3. We have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is the Sacrament of God’s mercy and love, so that our joy may be full. It does not only forgive our sins, but it also brings us back to the life of Christ and the Church. It is a sacrament of humility, for in our sins we are proud, arrogant, disobedient, and closed in ourselves, but in the sacrament we are humble, soft-spoken, and open to opportunities that God gives us. We recognize the power of God to forgive and his healing mercy that brings us wholeness again.
Let us devote ourselves to prayer daily and commit ourselves to the celebration of the Eucharist, the love of the Heart of Jesus; and with the Immaculate Heart of Mary and all the Angels and Saints in Heaven, we shall rejoice in God’s visit to us. We rejoice with Zechariah as he proclaims with joy: Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; He has come to his people and set them free (Lk 1:68). Let us also proclaim to the world that everything that we have and are is His, as everything that is His is acceptable to the Father. With Jesus we can also be acceptable to the Father. When the priest pronounces the words of consecration, “This is My Body…. This is My Blood,” we join the Body of Jesus, the Church, and become one with all our brothers and sisters throughout the world. Let this be our life and joy as we are instructed to go in the peace of the Lord and to announce the Gospel to all.