Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 30 October 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
Today, in the Liturgy, the Gospel narrates the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus, chief of the publicans of the city of Jericho (Lk 19:1-10). At the centre of this account is the verb to seek. Let us pay attention: to seek. Zacchaeus “sought to see who Jesus was” (v. 3), and Jesus, after meeting him, states: “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (v. 10). Let us focus a little on these two gazes that seek each other: the gaze of Zacchaeus who is seeking Jesus, and the gaze of Jesus who is looking for Zacchaeus.
The gaze of Zacchaeus. He is a publican, that is, one of those Jews who collected taxes on behalf of the Roman rulers — a traitor of the homeland — and took advantage of their position. Therefore, Zacchaeus was rich, hated by all and branded a sinner. The text says “he was small of stature” (v. 3), and this perhaps also alludes to his inner baseness, to his mediocre, dishonest life, with his gaze always turned downwards. But the important thing is that he was little. And yet, Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus. Something drives him to see him. “He ran on ahead”, says the Gospel, “and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way” (v. 4). He climbed a sycamore: Zacchaeus, the man who dominated all, makes a fool of himself, takes the path of the ridiculous, to see Jesus. Let us think a little of what would happen if, for instance, a minister of the economy climbed a tree to look at something: he would risk mockery. And Zacchaeus risked mockery to see Jesus, he made himself look ridiculous. Zacchaeus, in his lowliness, feels the need to seek another gaze, that of Christ. He does not know him yet, but he awaits someone who will free him from his condition — morally low — to bring him out of the mire in which he finds himself. This is fundamental: Zacchaeus teaches us that, in life, all is never lost. Please, all is never lost, never! We can always make room for the desire to begin again, to start over, to convert. And this is what Zacchaeus does.
In this regard, the second aspect is decisive: the gaze of Jesus. He was sent by the Father to seek those who are lost; and when he arrives in Jericho, he passes right by the tree where Zacchaeus is. The Gospel narrates that Jesus “looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today’” (v. 5). It is a very beautiful image, because if Jesus has to look up, it means that he is looking at Zacchaeus from below. This is the history of salvation: God did not look down on us to humiliate and judge us, no; on the contrary, he lowered himself to the point of washing our feet, looking at us from below and restoring our dignity to us. In this way, the eye contact between Zacchaeus and Jesus seems to encapsulate the whole of salvation history: humanity, with its miseries, seeks redemption, but firstly, God, with mercy, seeks creatures to save them.
Brothers, sisters, let us remember this: the gaze of God never stops at our past, full of errors, but looks with infinite confidence at what we can become. And if at times we feel we are people who are “small of stature”, not up to the challenges of life and far less of the Gospel, mired in problems and sins, Jesus always looks at us with love. As with Zacchaeus, he comes towards us, he calls us by name and, if we welcome him, he comes to our home. Then we might ask ourselves: how do we look at ourselves? Do we feel inadequate, and resign ourselves, or precisely there, when we feel down, do we seek the encounter with Jesus? And then: what gaze do we have towards those who have erred, and who struggle to get up again from the dust of their mistakes? Is it a gaze from above, that judges, disdains, that excludes? Let us remember that it is legitimate to look down on someone only to help them get up again: nothing more. Only then is it legitimate to look down from above. But we Christians must have the gaze of Christ, who embraces from below, who seeks those who are lost, with compassion. This is, and must be, the gaze of the Church, always, the gaze of Christ, not the condemning gaze.
Let us pray to Mary, whose humility the Lord looked upon, and ask her for the gift of a new outlook on ourselves and on others.
After the Angelus prayer, the Holy Father continued:
Dear brothers and sisters, while we celebrate Christ’s victory over evil and over death, let us pray for the victims of the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, which killed more than 100 people, including many children. May God convert the hearts of the violent!
And let us pray to the Risen Lord also for those — especially the young — who died in Seoul, as a tragic consequence of a sudden crowd surge.
Yesterday, in Medellín, Colombia, Blessed María Berenice Duque Hencker, founder of the Little Sisters of the Annunciation, was beatified. She spent all of her long life, which ended in 1993, at the service of God and of her brothers and sisters, especially the small and the excluded. May her apostolic zeal, which drove her to take Jesus’ message beyond the borders of her country, strengthen in everyone the desire to participate, with prayer and charity, in the dissemination of the Gospel throughout the world. A round of applause for the new Blessed, everyone!
I greet you, people of Rome and pilgrims from various countries: families, parish groups, associations, individual faithful. In particular I greet, from Spain, the faithful from Córdoba, and the Orfeón Donostiarra” choir from San Sebastián, which is celebrating 125 years of activity; the young people of the Hakuna Movement; the group of São Paulo, Brazil; and the Indonesian clerics and men and women religious resident in Rome. I greet the participants in the conference organized by the worldwide “Uniservitate” network and by LUMSA; as well as the children from Naples preparing for their first Communion and the groups of faithful from Magreta, Nocera Inferiore and Nardò. And the young people of the Immacolata.
Please, let us not forget martyred Ukraine in our prayer and in our heartache. Let us pray for peace, never tire of doing so!
I wish you all a happy Sunday. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch! Arrivederci until the day after tomorrow for the Feast of All Saints.
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