'Not only do we become by means of the sacraments contemporaries of a past that is the very source of our salvation, but we become capable of recuperating the past, of retaking and reconstructing our life by giving it a new unity. We know that there is a distance between "me" and my history, between the depths of ourselves and our acts. Our actions commit us; but once they are performed, they escape us and accumulate behind us and form the chain of our history. And this past can be crushing.
The sacraments continually permit us to transcend this history, and to judge it, and to a degree, to change its meaning and the value of the whole by means of new acts....
The sinner who has been reconciled to God in his person nevertheless drags behind him in his past a failure towards God, a failure towards love; it is true that at one moment in his history he failed the order of charity which should be reflected in every human undertaking. The event, this sin, remains a fact for ever; but by means of the sacraments it can take on another meaning in the entirety of its history, and this by means of new acts repairing the disorder; it is possible for us to restore God's honour, not only in our heart, but in the course of our history which is still being written. It is possible to change the profile of our past acts by means of new compensating acts. This is a marvellous conversion which the sacraments place within our reach! We become capable of offering to God a life really ordered by love. This is where the reflection we mentioned above concerning healing the past by means of present actions takes on its force. The sacraments do not only remove the sickness from suffering; they go infinitely farther; they transfigure and transvalue what was perversion and evil into an occasion and fruit of divine friendship.'
Father Bernard Bro, O.P.
The Gospel reading was the story of Zacchaeus today, who as everyone remembers if they ever heard the story as a child, climbed a sycamore tree to get a look at Jesus in the crowds. In the Magnificat magazine, Robert Barron quotes Thomas Merton, who said that many are in the grip of a 'promethean attitude' when it comes to morality. A belief that only a heroic stoicism will earn us divine love - if we live out certain moral commands then we will be worthy of God. He says that this is to get things backwards, as the story of Zacchaeus shows. Zacchaeus was a sinful tax collector, Jesus called to him "come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." Then he promises to give half his possessions to the poor and pay back anyone he has wronged. So the moral reformation of Zacchaeus was preceded by the inrushing of divine grace - the encounter with Christ.
Without the encounter with Christ provided by prayer and through the sacraments, we are bereft of the opportunity for grace to touch us. And a prayerful and sacramental life gives us the opportunities we need to keep returning to the wounded place within us where we hurt, and where we keep choosing to do wrong, and facing it with clear sight and a calm heart. Jesus calls us to make a descent into an interior abyss, there to be closer to him, so that he can come and stay with us today.
As Pope Francis said: "Christian morality is not a 'never-falling-down', but an 'always-getting-up-again'.