Sunday 30th October 2016. Archbishop Charles J. Scicluna celebrated Mass with the German community living in Malta, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary from the foundation of St Barbara Parish.
St Francis Church, Valletta
30th October 2016
We have a meeting of two faces, in today’s Gospel. There is Zacchaeus, who is moved by a certain curiosity. He wants to see Jesus, he is too short – I know exactly what that means, and how it feels – and he knows that in a large crowd there is no change of seeing the Lord. Therefore, Zacchaeus, whom the Gospel says is a senior tax collector, a wealthy man, climbs a sycamore tree. When you visit Jericho there are at least twenty of these sycamore trees, that Zacchaeus supposed to have climbed them, he might have been a professional sycamore climber. He climbs this wild fig, a sycamore to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Jesus reaches the spot, he looks up and find Zacchaeus on the tree. There are two people then who are looking for each other. In fact, the Lord says in the end of today’s Gospel, “the son of Man has come out to seek out, to look out and save out what was lost.” There’s a healthy curiosity in Zacchaeus but there’s is this great emotion in the heart of Jesus, his Mercy that makes him look out for anybody who is lost. Who wants to meet him and greet him? Jesus tells Zacchaeus, Hurry because I must stay at your house today.
Now Jesus knows that Zacchaeus, is not considered worthy by the community in fact, people complained he has gone “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner”, that is how they call Zacchaeus ‘the sinner’. Jesus calls him the Son of Abraham; he is also an heir to the promises. He’s also called to the pilgrimage of faith, called to the loyalty, obedience, faith love and charity. Jesus, coming to the house of Zacchaeus, is an occasion not only of reconciliation – it converts, transforms Zacchaeus into somebody who does not only go according to justice. This is a man who was known for his injustice, but goes that one step forward. He tells Jesus, “look, I’m going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I’m going to give back four times the amount. Now ordinary justice would demand that he would repay what he was taken by cheating somebody. He goes beyond that; he is going to pay four times the amount. Half his property is going to the poor. So meeting Jesus has transformed Zacchaeus not only in an ordinary good man, but in a very generous man. This is what Jesus calls, ‘salvation’. Today, salvation has come to this house. But what is this salvation? It is not an ideology, it is not a book, it is a person. A human person, Jesus of Nazareth. He has come to the House of Zacchaeus; salvation has come to his house. There is an irony of course, because the name of Jesus himself means, ‘the Lord saves’ ‘Yeshua’. Thus, when Jesus says, “salvation has entered of the house of Zacchaeus”, he is referring to his own presence.
Let us pray for the healthy curiosity that moves a heart, to meet the merciful face of Jesus. Jesus is eager to enter our house, and he will bring salvation. What is our response? Let us pray that we are also transformed, into people who do not only give out form their extra to the poor, but are there to give out their life, for their brethren. People who go beyond the demands of justice, and move away from a culture that knows the price of everything, and the value of none. Let us be infused with the idea of promoting a culture of openness to the other, of true acceptance of the other, of generous self-giving, which is the kernel, the essence of salvation of meeting the face of the merciful Jesus.
✠ Charles J. Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta