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Mercy and Joy

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Have you heard this gospel story before? It's kind of funny, because a grown man--a short grown man--climbs a tree! That's something a kid would do, not a rich man! (Imagine the prime minister of Canada, or the president of the United States, climbing a tree to see Jesus! It's kind of a funny image 😂)

When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”

What is Jesus doing here? He has changed his plans about passing through Jericho and has decided that he must stay with Zacchaeus, a known sinner. Zacchaeus did not ask for this--we can even say (like the others who notice) that he doesn't deserve it. It is a gift that Jesus gives him freely. This is mercy.

Mercy is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We know that of course the Holy Spirit flows freely through Jesus, both at the time he walked on the earth and now in his Risen life--in the fullness of the life of God. When the Holy Spirit flows within us, when we are "moved by the Holy Spirit," there are signs, and we call these signs "fruit" of the Holy Spirit.

Notice Zacchaeus' response to the gift of mercy:

So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.

The New American Bible translates that same line like this:

And he came down quickly and received him with joy.

Check it out--joy is another gift of the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit flows from Jesus to Zacchaeus.

And what happens?

Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

He has changed, hasn't he? He is transformed! I think we could say that he is becoming the person he was made to be.

We know that we sin; we make wrong choices--maybe not the same choices that Zacchaeus makes, but ones we are ashamed of. Does Jesus offer us mercy?


For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.

When we go to the sacrament of reconciliation, we know this mercy that God gives us. We are changed, we are transformed, we are restored to the person we are meant to be.

What fruit of the Holy Spirit will we see in ourselves when we receive mercy?

P.S. Look at what Zacchaeus says to Jesus again. Do you think he is showing any other fruit of the Holy Spirit?

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