Opening Question: Have you ever had a second chance? What happened?
First Reading: Wisdom 11:23-12:2
Judah liked to visit his grandfather, a wise leader of the Jews in Alexandria. Judah's grandfather inspired him to live a life according to God's Law. That was hard to do when he lived in a foreign country and didn't even understand the language his own people spoke in Israel.
Once Judah asked his grandfather if God loved the Jews more than any other people. His grandfather answered that God loved all people. Prejudice made some believe God loved them more than others. And prejudice made these people treat those who were different harshly.
"Grandfather," Judah said on a visit, "I've thought a lot about what you said about God's love for everyone. But, I still don't understand why God allows people to mistreat each other."
Judah's grandfather turned to the boy with a knowing smile. "Another question, Judah?" the elderly man asked his grandson. "Why indeed does God allow the people he loves to hate each other? Why doesn't God do something about the suffering of the hated?"
Judah looked at his wise grandfather with respect. It seemed the old man could truly read the boy's mind and heart.
"Ah" his grandfather sighed, "patience is the key to understanding God's ways. Not our patience, Judah. His patience. God is patient with the ones he loves so they can come back to him."
Later, Jews in Alexandria would read the words of their wisest king:
In your sight,
the universe is merely a grain of sand
that tips a balance scale or a drop of dew in the early morning.
You can do anything,
and yet you patiently show mercy to everyone,
so that they will turn from their sins.
In all creation there is nothing you don't love;
otherwise, you would not have created everything.
Nothing would have lasted, unless you have wanted it to.
All living creatures belong to you,
and you love them all,
because your eternal spirit is in each of them.
That's why you correct us for our sins a little at a time,
as a reminder and a warning for us
to turn from sin and have faith in you, our Lord.
Should everyone get a second chance? Why or why not?
Bridge Question: When was the last time you saw someone do something nice? How did people react to the act of kindness?
Gospel: Luke 19:1-10
Once, a man named Zacchaeus lived in Jericho. (Zacchaeus got rich collecting taxes for the Romans. Since the Romans conquered the Jews, the Jewish people thought Zacchaeus was a traitor. He could also charge people whatever he wanted to, just as long as he gave the Roman officials what they wanted. So, the people hated him as a cheating sinner.)
One day, Jesus passed through Jericho. Zacchaeus wanted to know who Jesus was. But he couldn't see through the crowd because he was a small man. So, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus as he passed by. When Jesus came to the spot, he looked up. "Zacchaeus! Get down here fast!" Jesus called out. "I need to stay with your family today!" Zacchaeus jumped down and happily greeted Jesus.
Everyone who saw what happened began to grumble, "Jesus goes to be the guest of a sinner!" Then, Zacchaeus stood tall so everyone could hear him. "Listen, Lord!" he said to Jesus. "I'm giving half of what I own to the poor. And if I've cheated anyone, I will repay them four times the amount."
"The family of Zacchaeus is saved today, because he's really a son of Abraham," Jesus replied. "For the Son of Man came to save people who have lost their way."
Charlie did not have a good reputation. "He cheats," one person whispered. "He's selfish" said another. "All he cares about is money," commented a third. Even though Charlie stayed to himself, that didn't stop the talk behind his back.
"It's true," Charlie admitted, "I like to make and save money. And I expect people to repay me the same way I would repay others." But Charlie didn't see the real issue. Money was too important, even when it came to friends. He didn't value people. And, in a way, he didn't value himself.
One day, that all changed. A wind from the north began to blow cold. The temperature suddenly dropped. The trees began to bend with the wind. Then they whipped around as if they were made out of rubber. Some of the bending tress broke apart and rammed into houses. The wind picked up so much speed, a local official solemnly announced a public state of emergency on television.
The local school library was turned into shelter for families who lost their homes to the wind. A call went out for donations. Money, food, good clothing, and bedding. People from the neighborhood banded together and went to the school to see if they could help.
When they arrived, many of the children were amazed to see Charlie there. The children buzzed with comments. Charlie did his best to ignore them, until a small boy walked up to him as asked, "What are you doing here?"
"I'm helping," Charlie snapped back, "just like everyone else."
Charlie looked up to see a room so quiet you could hear a pin drop. From the look on everyone's face, he must have reacted too harshly. The adults stared. Many of the children had their mouth's wide open in awe. "Was this really Charlie?" their looks seemed to ask.
Charlie stayed most of the day and into the evening. He helped load food into the car trunks of families, make beds, and sort clothes. At the end of his time, he gave the person in charge of the shelter a sealed envelope. "Here," Charlie said in a half whisper, "this should help." And he left. The shelter supervision opened the envelope and found $200 in tens and twenties.
When Charlie got home, he knew he was different. He changed. Did others see the change in him? This was a thought Charlie immediately dismissed as unimportant. Others would probably keep to their opinions about him. But Charlie finally knew the real worth of money. Because he knew people were more important.
Jesus came to Jericho and a small selfish man climbed a tree to see him. Jesus invited the small Zacchaeus to eat with him. And Zaccheaus changed. Like Charlie, no one believed Zacchaeus but Jesus. But, it didn't matter. Like Charlie, Zacchaeus knew he changed. He knew because Jesus told him. And that was enough.
Closing Question: How can people become more loving, like Zacchaeus and Charlie? How can you help them?