At his Angelus on Sunday, Pope Francis spoke about the day’s Gospel account of the conversion of Zacchaeus.
The Holy Father recalled that Zacchaeus, a man “short in stature,” because he was a publican “was a lost sheep, despised, an ‘excommunicate’ . . . a friend of the hated Roman occupiers, a thief and an exploiter.”
Nonetheless, although he was far away from Jesus, he climbed a tree in order to be able to see the Master as He passed by. Although it seemed ridiculous, the Pope said, “this exterior act expressed the interior act of a man who sought to bring himself beyond the crowd to come into contact with Jesus.” Zacchaeus himself probably did not recognize the significance of his action, but Jesus, when He passed by, called him by name. “This man of short stature, rejected by all and far from Jesus, was like one lost in anonymity; but Jesus calls him, and his name has a significance full of allusions: Zacchaeus, in fact, means ‘God remembers.’”
Jesus, calling Zacchaeus and going to his house, is criticised by the people of Jericho. Why, the Pope asked, with so many good people in Jericho, did Jesus go to the house of that publican? It was precisely because Zacchaeus was ‘lost.’
“There is no occupation or social condition,” Pope Francis said, “no sin or crime of any kind, that could erase from the memory and the heart of God even one of His children.” God is a Father, always keeping a watchful and loving vigil “to see reborn in the hearts of the child the desire to return home. And when He recognizes that desire, even simply stated, He is immediately close by, and with His forgiveness He makes the path of conversion and return easier.”
“Let’s look at Zacchaeus, today, on the tree,” the Pope continued. “His is a ridiculous gesture, but it is an act of salvation. And I say to you: if you have a weight on your conscience, if you are ashamed of so many things that you’ve done, stop for a moment, do not panic. Think about the fact that that Someone is waiting for you because He has never stopped remembering you — and this Someone is your Father, it is God Who waits for you! Climb up, as did Zacchaeus, climb onto the tree of the desire of being forgiven. I will assure you that you will not be disappointed. Jesus is merciful and never grows tired of forgiving! Remember well, that’s the way Jesus is.”
“Brothers and sisters, let us also call upon the name Jesus!” Pope Francis said, concluding his Angelus address. “In the depths of the heart, let us listen to His voice that says to us: ‘Today I must stay at your house,’ that is in your life. And let us welcome Him with joy: He can change us, can transform our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, He can liberate us from selfishness and make our lives a gift of love.”