Zacchaeus Sunday, Luke. Pericope 94, 2012
Today we heard the Gospel story of Zacchaeus the Publican, who represents the ideal of repentance.
Repentance is an important element of our church life and our spirituality. It can be compared with housecleaning. How often do we clean house, once a week or once a year? Although I once saw a sign that read, “clean does not mean tidying up, but not making mess.” Nonetheless, messes happen. The same thing can be said of sins. Just as dust gets into every nook and cranny, sin gets into out souls, soiling it if we are inattentive to our inner life.
Zacchaeus heard that Christ was preaching about New Life and about His miracles and wanted to see Him. He therefore went ahead and, because he was short of stature, climbed up a fig tree so he could see the Savior pass by. But the Lord already detected the change in the former chief tax collector, and said: Today I must abide at thy house (Luke 19, 5). And Zacchaeus received the Savior joyously, saying: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold (Luke 19, 8). With this last utterance, Zacchaeus admitted he was a thief, since according to the Old Testament Law anyone who stole an ass or a ewe had to return four times as much to the owner. The people began grumbling when they heard that the Lord was visiting the home of a sinner, since publicans collected taxes for the pagan Roman Empire. But the Lord said: This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19, 9-10).
The repentance of Zacchaeus is an example of true repentance characterized not by mere sterile regret, but by a striving to atone for sins by means of their opposite—virtue.
Sincere repentance always has two sides: a negative and a positive. The negative side consists of not doing evil, of abstaining from it. The positive side means doing good.
The soul cannot tolerate emptiness. If we wish to free ourselves of a certain passion, we must fill our souls with the opposite virtue. Otherwise the passion could return with even greater strength, and it will be impossible to resist. As it says in the Gospels: When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first (Matthew 12, 43-45).
Therefore let us not put off the confession of our sins, assuming that there is still time, but rather follow Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, who repented to the Savior for his abuses. And the Lord said to him: This day is salvation come to this house (Matthew 19, 9). We also wish to hear similar words of salvation. But this depends on our zeal, with which may the Lord help us.