If we have got a soft spot for Zacchaeus now it is because we know the end of his story. We know of his repentance. However the people who saw Jesus going to Zacchaeus house they didn’t know that. What they knew was that the tax collector didn’t fit to their society. Because of what he did they wanted him out. They thought that without him they would be a better community. I can understand them though I disagree with them on that. My disagreement comes from observing Jesus who went to the man who was despised by all. In Jesus I see an expression of what we heard of God in our First Reading from the book of Wisdom: “You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life, you whose imperishable spirit is in all.”
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! We don’t know what happened to Zacchaeus after that encounter with Jesus. We can only hope that his neighbours didn’t stigmatise him for good; that they embraced him with the compassion Jesus exhibited instead.
All people want to create good societies. However now there is a trend to have societies of perfect people. Maybe that’s the time for us to speak of perfection in the Biblical understanding. In the Gospel of Matthew we read: “You must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If we go to the beginning of creation story we find in the book of Genesis the serpent telling the first parents: “For God knows that when you eat from the tree your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.” Both sentences seem to be similar but the first leads to life and the second leads to death. The first parents got hooked on the idea of being equal to God. That’s impossible. That’s selfish. That’s arrogant. Life cannot be built on impossible, selfish and arrogant.
What Matthew speaks of is perfection which means compassion which doesn’t exclude anyone, even our enemies. It is perfection we can see in the Good Samaritan. It is perfection we can see in the father of the prodigal son. It is perfection we see in Veronica during Jesus’ way of the cross.
We are blessed, here in Australia, to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. However some recent research indicates that in terms of donating to the charities we are not on the top of the list. On the contrary when it comes to donating we behave as if we were very, very poor. Our wealth is not only about donating but it should be also about giving an example of embracing the vulnerable. October is known in the Catholic Church as the month of the Rosary but in the wider society it is also Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Do you know that in the U.S. 90% babies who are detected to have the Down Syndrome are aborted? Early this year in a magazine there was an article that Down Syndrome people are at risk of extinction at the hands of science which has provided parents with the tests to find out the condition of the child. In China they have started speaking about the Last Downer as nearly all babies with the Syndrome are aborted. It will contribute to creating the society of “physically perfect” people but it will also impoverish our society. We will become less compassionate, less understanding, and less supportive. We can become the society where the repented Zacchaeus wouldn’t be embraced. That’s why we hear these words from the book of Wisdom: ““You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life, you whose imperishable spirit is in all.” Hopefully we can get hooked on the being “lovers of life” in order to become “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.”