Pope Francis on November 3, 2019, commented on the Gospel reading for the day, the well-known story of Zacchaeus, a short, dishonest tax collector who climbed a tree to glimpse the Lord. (Luke 19: 1-10)
The Holy Father’s remarks came before praying the noonday Angelus with the large crowds gather in St. Peter’s Square.
Zacchaeus was determined to see Jesus. But the Pope points out that it was Jesus who first looked on the tax collector.
“And this is important: the first look wasn’t Zacchaeus’ but Jesus’, who among the many faces that surrounded Him — the crowd–, in fact, seeks him,” Francis said. “The Lord’s merciful look reaches us first before we realize our need of Him to be saved. And, with this look of the divine Master, the miracle begins of the sinner’s conversion.
“In fact, Jesus calls him, and He calls him by name: ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for I must stay at your house today’ (v. 5). He doesn’t reproach him; He doesn’t ‘preach’ to him; He says to him that He must go to his house: He ‘must,’ because it’s the will of the Father. Despite the people’s murmuring, Jesus chooses to stay in the house of that sinful publican.”
The Holy Father admitted that people today might have been “scandalized” by Jesus’ outreach to the tax collector they despised. But is a “split-second” Zacchaeus changed his attitude, realized his sins, and vowed to make amends.
“May the Virgin Mary obtain for us the grace to feel always upon us the merciful gaze of Jesus, to go to meet with mercy those that have made a mistake, so that they too can welcome Jesus, who ‘came to seek and to save the lost'(v. 10),” Francis concluded.