THEME: PUBLIC VS PRIVATE SINNERS.
BY: Benedict Agbo (Rev Fr)
* Rev 3 : 1 – 22, Lk 19 : 1 – 10.
Public sinners are the celebrated sinners whose sinful proclivities have been brought to the limelight, example the harlots, armed robbers and in our context, some Police men who are generally known for taking bribes on the roads. Private sinners are pretenders who look like white washed sepulchres appearing holy before the eyes of men but are inwardly filthy. So many ‘religious people’ wearing suites and carrying bibles as pastors and preachers and some with soutanes and veils belong to this class. The message to the Laodician Church in today’s 1st reading is apt for such people: ‘I know your works; you have the name of being active but you are dead’. Spiritual activism and apathy are two dangerous extremes in Christian spirituality today; the former pretend to be so active with the work of the Lord but they are not actually in resonance with the Lord of the work. The latter tend to show no interest at all in things of the spirit and end up living like atheists in a world they know not about its origin and mission. God says in today’s 1st reading: ‘I know your works; You are neither cold nor hot…and I will spit you out of my mouth’.
More consoling however is the end of that passage: ‘Behold, I stand knocking at the door of your heart; whoever hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him’. And that brings us to the gospel account of the public sinner Zacheus who opened his heart to Jesus. He was rich but of small stature with the motive of SEEING JESUS. Now comes the role of the SYCAMORE tree – the biblical metaphor here representing the Church. I like the motif of VISITATION where Jesus disregards his status as a public sinner and says ‘ Come down for I must visit your house today!’. Yes, to receive Christ, we must always come down from so many high places; pride, anger, lust, vanity, cultism, etc.
Next comes the motif of RESTITUTION. This one makes the difference between Christianity and ordinary social club. When Zacheus opted for 50% restitution offering, it became clear to all and sundry that he learnt the business of his new life in Christ. According to Dillwyn, ‘Repentance without amendment is like continually pumping water into a tank without mending the leak’. When Jesus saw his effort towards repentance he declared in unequivocal terms that ‘ Today, salvation has come to this house’ because Zacheus has acted like a son of Abraham. We must be ready always to act like sons of Abraham – sons of mercy, sons of faith, sons of repentance. May God bless you today!
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