In the scriptures for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 30, 2016) we will hear about a man who has changed. Zaccheus (Zack), unlike the tax collector from last Sunday's Gospel, has done very well for himself. Yet he is willing to go great lengths, running ahead and then climbing a Sycamore tree, just to see Jesus. When he does, he changes dramatically. He doesn't just offer amends: he will give half his possessions to the poor. Further, he will repay four times any amount he "might have" extorted.
The point of Sunday's readings is that God is merciful, even to tax collecting extortionists. Psalm 145 tells us that:
"The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all and compassionate toward all his works."
Accepting this, we can still wonder how Zack the extortionist reached a state of mind enabling him to make an instant conversion. I suspect that his conversion started well before the story we hear in the gospel. It was also more gradual, occurring in stages. This is what we read in our first reading from the book of Wisdom:
"O LORD and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!
Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little,
warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing,
that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!"
Zack may have been surprised by his conversion. I imagine that his taxpaying victims were even more surprised.
We need to be patient with our selves and with others. God is working silently within. If we turn ourselves over to the care of God, change will come when we are ready. Not too soon - or too late.