The Holy Father offered this reflection during his address before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter's Square.
Referring to the meaning of the name Zacchaeus, Francis said, "'God remembers' always and he never forgets anyone that he has created; God is Father, always in vigilant and loving expectation of seeing the desire to return home be born in his child. And when he sees that desire, even if it is barely aroused, and many times almost unconscious, he is immediately there, and with his forgiveness he makes the journey of conversion and return easier."
Francis introduced his commentary noting that Zacchaeus is a "lost sheep," despised by the people "because he is a publican, indeed, he is the head of the publicans in the city, a friend of the hated Roman occupiers, he is a thief and an exploiter."
The Pope referred to Zacchaeus climbing the tree as something "a little ridiculous," but noted that this gesture "expressed the interior act of the man who tries to get above the crowd to have contact with Jesus."
"Zacchaeus himself does not know the profound meaning of his gesture," the Pontiff said, "he does not know why he does this but he does it; nor does he dare to hope that he might overcome the distance that separates him from the Lord; he resigns himself simply to seeing him pass by."
Jesus, though, calls Zacchaeus by name.
"That little man, rejected by everyone and distant from Jesus, is as if lost in anonymity; but Jesus calls him," Francis said, "and that name 'Zacchaeus,' in the language of that time, has a beautiful meaning, full of allusions: 'Zacchaeus,' in fact, means 'God remembers.'"
The Pope reflected that "from that day forward, into Zacchaeus' house entered joy, entered peace, entered salvation, entered Jesus."
"Let us look at Zacchaeus today on the tree," the Holy Father invited. "What he does is a bit ridiculous, but it is a deed of salvation. And I say to you: if you have a burden on your conscience, if you are ashamed of many things that you have done, stop for a moment, do not be afraid. Know that someone waits for you because he has never forgotten you; and this person is your Father, it is God who awaits you! Like Zacchaeus, climb up the tree of the desire to be forgiven; I assure you that you will not be disappointed. Jesus is merciful and never tires of forgiving us! Remember this well, this is how Jesus is.
"Dear brothers and sisters, let us too allow ourselves to be called by name Jesus! In the depths of our heart let us listen to his voice, which says to us: 'Today I stay at your house,' that is, in your heart, in your life. And let us welcome him with joy: he can change us, he can transform our heart of stone into a heart of flesh, he can free us from egoism and make our life a gift of love. Jesus can do it; let Jesus heal you!"
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Full translation: www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-the-desire-to-see-jesus