The Change in Zacchaeus


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 forever;  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 honor, 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 is a marvellous conversion which the sacraments place within our reach!  We become capable of much more than a compensation for the past;  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.




Fr. Bernard Bro. "The Change in Zacchaeus." excerpt from The Spirituality of the Sacraments: Doctrine and Practice for Today (Continuum International Publishing Group, 1968).

Reproduced by permission of Continuum International Publishing Group, A Bloomsbury Company.

This excerpt appeared in Magnificat in November 2013.


Dominican and doctor of philosophy, Fr. Bernard Bro has been a professor at the Pontifical Faculties of Saulchoir, preacher at Notre Dame in Paris, and recognized by the Academie Francaise for the whole of his work. He is considered among the world's foremost authorities on the life and writings of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Bro is also director of the French publishing house, Éditions du Cerf, and a key figure in publishing the definitive editions of Thérèse's writings. He is likewise responsible for the religious broadcasts at France-Culture. His books, which have been translated into English, include St. Thérèse of Lisieux: Her Family, Her God, Her Message and The Little Way: The Spirituality of Therese of Lisieux.

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