FOR JESUS THERE ARE NO LOST CAUSES
Jesus frequently warns about the danger of getting trapped by the irresistible attraction of money. The bottomless desire for material well-being can lead a person to lose one’s life. It’s not necessary to just be super rich. Whoever lives as a slave of money ends up closed in on self. No one else counts. According to Jesus, «wherever your treasure is, that is where your heart will be too».
This vision of the dehumanizing danger of money isn’t limited to the indignant prophet from Galilee. Different studies analyze the power of money as a force connected to deep compulsions of self-protection, the seeking of security, and the fear of our existence getting away from us.
For Jesus, the attraction of money isn’t an incurable disease. It’s possible to free oneself from its slavery and begin a more healthy life. The rich aren’t «a lost cause». It’s helpful to read Luke’s account of Jesus meeting the rich man of Jericho.
After crossing through the city, Jesus comes upon a strange scene. A man of small stature has climbed a tree in order to see him better. He’s not someone unknown. He’s a rich man, a powerful senior tax collector. For the people of Jericho, he’s a despicable person, a corrupt tax collector, unscrupulous. In religious circles, he’s «a sinner» without hope of conversion, shut out of salvation.
However, Jesus presents him with a surprising proposal: «Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today». Jesus wants to be welcomed in this sinner’s house, in the world of money and power where this man who is despised by everyone dwells. Zacchaeus comes down right away and receives him joyfully. He isn’t afraid to let the defender of the poor come into his life.
Luke doesn’t explain what happens in that house. He just tells us that his contact with Jesus radically transforms the rich Zacchaeus. His commitment is solid. From now on he’ll think of the poor: he’ll share his wealth with them. He’ll also remember the victims he has abused: he’ll fully return what he’s robbed, with interest. Jesus has brought justice and loving solidarity into his life.
The story concludes with some wonderful words of Jesus: «Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost». Even the rich can be converted. With Jesus everything is possible. We don’t need to leave anyone out. He has come to seek out and to save what we were ready to give up on. For Jesus there are no lost causes.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf