“Zacchaeus becomes merciful and generous when he sees the unprecedented mercy of God” –

On 25 January 2015, the Orthodox Church is on the 32nd Sunday after the Pentecost. The Evangelical pericope of Saint Evangelist Luke (19:1-10) presenting the encounter of Jesus Christ, our Lord, with chief tax collector Zacchaeus was read in all the Orthodox churches:

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church delivered a sermon in the chapel of the Patriarchal Residence dedicated to Saint Gregory the Enlightener in which he explained the teaching of the evangelical pericope scheduled to be read at the Divine Liturgy today.

Christ’s kindness goes beyond Zacchaeus’ wickedness

The Patriarch of Romania emphasised the fact that Zacchaeus, yesterday’ greedy and avaricious man suddenly becomes merciful and generous after he sees the unprecedented mercy of God which overwhelms him.

“Then, the Holy Gospel shows us how chief tax collector Zacchaeus changed his soul after Christ, the Saviour, entered his house, namely a greedy tax collector became a generous man and was radically changed not because he was seriously reproached, but because he enjoyed unexpected honour. The presence of Jesus in his house overwhelmed him. Why that? That is because he was shown an honour and appreciation he knew he did not disserve. Christ honoured a worthless man although this one did not disserve the honour of his fellow beings, because he was not honest but mean in his relationship with them. Yet, Christ’s endless mercy or overwhelming kindness got beyond the darkness and wickedness of the greed sin in Zacchaeus’ soul, so that it revealed the little kindness that he still had and kindled his embers of humanity covered till then by the ash and soot of sin. When this ember almost put out by the image of the merciful kindness was kindled by the fire of Christ’s merciful saving love, the light of a new life came up in Zacchaeus’ soul in a radical decision: “Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount”, were the words of tax collector Zacchaeus. The reeky ember of his soul almost put out by greed has suddenly become a burning torch of merciful generosity, a bright image of the merciful God. Here we have the great wisdom of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, and the kindness of a father confessor who heals and releases the souls of the sinners, recuperates the doomed ones, releases the enslaved and raises the fallen ones”.

God changes the humans’ hearts, not so much through punishments, disease, troubles or reproaches, as especially through an overwhelming kindness

Christ, our Saviour, looks for the sinners and wants them to be saved irrespective of the public opinion. He has come into the world to gently and kindly recuperate all those who moved away from God through sin, the Patriarch of Romania has also underlined in his speech.

“We see in the Gospel of Zacchaeus’ Sunday how God changes the humans’ hearts, not so much through punishments, disease, trouble or reproach, as especially through overwhelming kindness shown to the sinful people often unexpectedly and undeservedly. But God’s mercy and kindness are often shown to the great sinners, not only to convert them, but also to urge all the other people, so that they should become better and more merciful, to try to resemble the much merciful God. On the other hand, the repentance shown in the spiritual change of tax collector Zacchaeus is not a repentance manifested only as regret for the evil done, but a change for the better of the way of thinking, feeling and acting, namely passing from the bad deeds to the good ones”, His Beatitude said.

Repentance means a change of life

The Primate of the Romanian Orthodox Church has also shown that we, the humans, can change our life for the better at any time of our existence on the earth.

“We learn from the encounter between Christ, our Saviour, and Zacchaeus that we can change our life on our own initiative, not waiting to be punished, scolded with disease, suffering or reproach, but rather thinking with kindness of God and of His desire to enter the house of our soul. How and when can we be converted or changed for the better? It is in many ways and at any time. For example, when we see a human more religious than us, we should not envy him but decide to have an even stronger belief; when we see a man more diligent and generous than us, we should decide to be more diligent and more generous; when we see that a man has a life purer than ours and that he lives in holiness, we should decide to cleanse our lives of sins. Any man who remains in sin is a doomed one if he does not repent. But repentance means a change of life, a passage from the way of perdition to the way of salvation, a passage from the bad deeds to the good ones. The Gospel helps us understand that the much gentleness and kindness of God are a mysterious urge to repentance, to change for the better”, the Patriarch of Romania said.

On 1 February 2015, the Orthodox Church will be on the 33rd Sunday after the Pentecost, of the Tax Collector and of the Pharisee.