33rd Week in Ordinary Time
If I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.
Try to imagine this scenario for a moment: you are Zacchaeus the tax collector, and you hear that Jesus is in town. You run out of your house and climb all the way up a tree to see him. Maybe you cut your knee on your way up, but you don’t care. You have to see this fellow! But then he sees you—and he speaks directly to you. You are so moved that you promise to give half your possessions to the poor and to restore fourfold anyone you’ve defrauded.
Now, imagine that he says to you, “That’s all right. You didn’t have to go so far as to scramble up that tree. And you certainly don’t have to give away so much money. Just give back what you owe, and make sure you come to the synagogue every Sabbath. I don’t want you to overdo it.”
Jesus would never react that way. It’s not that he demanded extravagant restitution as punishment for Zacchaeus’ acts of dishonesty. And it’s not that he needed Zacchaeus to balance the scales in an extreme way. No, he saw how Zacchaeus was making a sincere, voluntary gesture. Zacchaeus was acting freely, responding to the love that Jesus had for him (Luke 19:9). His restitution was an act of gratitude, not obligation.
That’s the way the mercy of God works. It is so extravagant and generous that it changes us. It convinces us to love and to give just as freely as Jesus has given to us. As St. Paul said, it “impels us” in a way that everyday logic can never do (2 Corinthians 5:14).
Spend some time in prayer today rejoicing in the extravagant, extreme, and unbounded love that Jesus has for you. Put yourself in Zacchaeus’ shoes, and let your encounter with the Lord move you to praise and worship him. “He loves me! He forgives me! He welcomes me with open arms!” Let these truths ring in your heart today. Let them help you to love just as freely and generously as you are loved.
“Lord, show me your love and your mercy. Come, Jesus, and teach me to be just as extravagant as you are!”
2 Maccabees 6:18-31