Stewards of Mercy Week 1: Zacchaeus

(Homily for Thirty-First Ordinary Sunday Year C)

Message: Like Zacchaeus I want all of us to experience the joy of becoming stewards of mercy.

Last week we completed a six-part series titled Boots Laced. We listened to God's call - expressed through Pope Francis - that we not become couch potatoes but rather protagonists of history.

In a new series I want to take this deeper, to ask a further question: What kind of protagonists does God want us to become? We have the answer in our Scripture readings. God wants us to become stewards of mercy. Stewards of mercy. You find this concept in Ephesians where St. Paul says we are stewards of God's grace - his mercy. (Eph 3:2)

Why is it so important to become stewards of mercy? Well, you and I have been given many things: a span of time here on earth, various talents and the opportunity to develop them - as well as material and financial resources. With all these things we have a choice: we can use them for good or for bad. We can use them for self-gratification or we can become stewards of mercy.

For sure we need material goods - food, shelter, clothes - to sustain and enjoy life. But material things can be used in another way. We can use them to provoke envy - so we can feel superior to someone else. Let me give a simple example. When I was a child, I received a yo-yo. I can still remember how its colors looked when I spun it. I took it to school and I wanted other children to see it. I wanted them to envy me - and when a boy asked if he could try it, I said, "no."

I was about seven; now I am seventy and I still detect those tendencies in me. When I was in Poland I purchased something not because I needed it but because I thought it would impress my brother, maybe make him envy me a little.

Not a huge deal, but the same trap Zacchaeus falls into. He betrays his countrymen, he bribes the Romans not just to become a tax collector but as today's Gospel says "chief tax collector." He amasses a small fortune - much more than any man needs. He wants people to envy him: his clothes, his house, the jewels his wife wears, their fine food. He becomes the richest, the most envied and the most miserable man in Jericho.

One day all that changes. A man comes into town who possesses nothing but who looks at Zacchaeus with eyes of mercy. Everything changes. When Jesus looks at him with eyes of mercy, everything changes.

"Half of my possessions I give to the poor," he declares. "And if I have extorted anything from anyone I will repay him four times over." There goes the other half! In an instance Zacchaeus changes from a monster of greed to a steward of mercy.

As we move toward the our Stewardship renewal I ask you to consider the case of Zacchaeus. For sure none of us has sunk so low as him. At the same time - as far as I know - none of us have made such a dramatic transformation.

I won't ask for half your possessions. What I'd like us to do is to consider what it means to become a steward of mercy. As with Zacchaeus it will be be liberating and joyful.

Let me give a small example. What did I buy in Poland to provoke my brother's envy? It's a little embarrassing but it was one of Poland's most famous products - vodka! A sampler of three kinds of vodka - rye, wheat and potato vodka. I had time to pray on the way home and it came to me: Rather than showing it off to my brother, I should donate it to the Mary Bloom Auction! It felt good, peaceful. Not quite as dramatic as Zacchaeus but you get the idea.

I want Stewardship to bring you inner peace. Like Zacchaeus I want all of us to experience the joy of becoming stewards of mercy. And to hear Jesus say, "Today salvation has come to this house." Amen.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Thirty-First Sunday, Year C):

2013: How to Pray, Part Four: Self-Emptying
2010: Salvation
2007: A Little Man With a Lot to Teach Us
2004: Astonished Gratitude
2001: An Ocean of Mercy

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