By Francesca Merlo
Pope Francis began his Homily in Albano by reminding the faithful gathered that the Lord “remembers us”. He does not forget, said the Pope, and “he does not lose sight of us despite the obstacles that may keep us far from Him."
Zacchaeus the tax collector
The Pope made reference to Luke’s Gospel, in particular, to Zacchaeus, the tax collector of Jericho. Upon hearing that Jesus would be passing through the city, Zacchaus, due to his “short stature” ran ahead of the crowd and climbed a tree in order to see Him better. When Jesus arrived, he noticed Zacchaeus in the tree and said to him that he should come down so that he may be a guest in his house.
This made Zacchaeus very joyful but the crowd complained as they considered him a sinner. However, Zacchaeus, who was a wealthy man, proceeded to give half of his belongings to the poor, because, through Jesus, he had been saved.
Pope Francis went on to explain that Zacchaeus himself faced many obstacles. His small stature “both physical and moral”, but also “his shame” for which he hid in the tree from Jesus, in hope of not being seen. No obstacle, said Pope Francis, can make Jesus forget the essential: a person in need of being “loved and saved”.
Each Church, said Pope Francis “exists to keep alive, in each person’s heart, the reminder that God loves them.” Just as Jesus did, he continued, do not be afraid to ‘cross’ your city, “to go to those who are most forgotten, to those who are hidden behind the branches of shame, fear, loneliness, to say to them: ‘God remembers you’.”
In highlighting one of Jesus’ actions, Pope Francis explained that Zacchaeus did not only want to see Jesus, but to also see who He was. Jesus anticipates him, as he sees him first, approaches him first and speaks to him first.
“This”, said Pope Francis, is who Jesus is. “He who sees us first, he who loves us first, he who welcomes us first." When we discover that his love anticipates us, continued the Pope, "that it reaches us first, life changes”.
Pope Francis then went on to highlight that Jesus made Zacchaeus feel at home. In a city where he felt unwanted, Zacchaeus “returned home as a loved one”. In being loved, che continued, he opened the door to his neighbour.
“How beautiful it would be if our neighbours and acquaintances felt the Church as their home” said the Pope. He explained that the Lord desires that His Church be a home among homes, for each and every person.
Promoters of good
Finally, Pope Francis reminded the faithful gathered, that just as Jesus, “we are not inspectors of the lives of others, but promoters of the good of all”.
“I hope”, concluded the Pope, “that your Cathedral, like every Church, will be the place where everyone feels remembered by the Lord, anticipated by his mercy and welcomed home. So that the most beautiful thing may happen in the Church: to rejoice because salvation has entered life”.