Today Jesus gives us his mission statement: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
In other words, Christ’s whole life was for others. Everything he did and said was aimed at bringing people back home to the Father’s house, back onto the path of true happiness.
That is still his mission, today.
He carries it out through his Church, which he has promised to protect and guide until the end of history.And he carries it out through each one of his followers – each one of us. We are his ambassadors, sent into the world to “seek out and save what was lost,” to bring the light of Christ to everyone who still walks in darkness. Christ’s life mission has become our life mission. That’s what being a Christian means.
If we are to succeed in our mission, which is all that really matters in life, we should carry it out in the same way that Christ did, basing our behavior not on what other people may think, but on what God wants.
Jesus had attracted a huge crowd as he made his way to Jerusalem. They lined the streets to get a glimpse of the master. As Jesus passed, someone pointed Zacchaeus out to him, and mentioned what an evil man he was.
Tax collectors made money by squeezing the people for more taxes than Rome demanded, and skimming off the excess for themselves. So when Jesus decided to spend some time with Zacchaeus, the crowd was shocked.
They “began to grumble, saying, ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house.'” But Jesus didn’t let gossip and criticism deter him from his mission. True Christians will do likewise.
Loving people who seem unlovable is one way God shows his mercy. Though for some people, the word mercy has connotations of weakness, Christian mercy is actually the strongest force in the world, because it overcomes sin.
Zacchaeus was a sinful man, an unjust man whose greed was causing suffering and misery to an entire region of Palestine. The people’s anger, their threats, their ostracism, their harsh words and actions – none of that changed his heart.
But when Jesus treated him with kindness and respect, he rekindled the sense of goodness that Zacchaeus, for whatever reason, had long since buried in the junk drawer of his soul.
A couple married for 15 years began having more than usual disagreements, in fact, their marriage was in crisis. They sincerely wanted to work through it and agreed on an idea the wife had. For one month they planned to drop a slip of paper in a “Fault” box. The boxes would provide a place to let the other know about daily irritations.
The wife was diligent in her efforts and approach: “leaving the jelly top off the jar,” “wet towels on the shower floor,” “dirty socks not in the hamper,” on and on until the end of the month.
After dinner, at the end of the month, they exchanged boxes. The husband reflected on what he had done wrong. Then the wife opened her box and began reading. They were all the same, the message on each slip was, “I love you!”
The crisis was over.
If we learn to be merciful, we will learn to “seek and to save what was lost,” to retrieve people’s good sides from the junk drawers of their soul.
We all want to be better instruments of God’s mercy, so that through us he can continue “to seek and save what was lost.”
But we can only do so if we are willing to be like Christ no matter what other people think.
Following Christ in a fallen world inevitably leads us to situations where we have to risk being criticized, laughed at and gossiped about because of our beliefs.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta learned this lesson well. Towards the end of her life, she gave this advice:
- People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
- If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior Motives. Be kind anyway.
- If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.
- If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you. Be honest and frank anyway.
- What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.
- If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
- The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.
- Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough. Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
Jesus knew that the crowd would grumble against him, but he reached out to Zacchaeus anyway.
Today, with the help of God’s grace that will come in Holy Communion, let’s promise the Lord that we will do the same.