Luke 19: 1-10
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus was in Jericho and was passing through the town. Everybody wanted to see Him. One can imagine the crowds as they crammed every space. There was a little rich man, the chief tax collector whose name was Zacchaeus, who had the opportunity of personal gain through unjust means but he too wanted to see Jesus! Zacchaeus was short in stature and could not see over the crowds gathered around Jesus, so he perched atop a sycamore tree hoping to catch at least a small glimpse of Jesus as he passed through Jericho on his way to Jerusalem. As he drew closer, Jesus looked up noticing the little rich man and said to him: “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today” (Lk 19:5). The rich man hurried down with joy to go ahead to prepare to host Jesus.
Upon hearing this exchange between Jesus and Zacchaeus, the crowds began murmuring about Jesus’ habit of spending time and dining with sinners. Typical of Jesus!
In Luke’s Gospel the first Beatitude reads simply: ‘’Blessed are the poor’’ while in Matthew’s list it is rendered as ‘poor in spirit’. Luke more clearly than the other Gospels make the point that God’s justice has a preference for the poor and little people. In his Beatitudes Luke created a parallel between the blessings: ‘blessed are they’ and the woes- ‘woe to you who are rich’. Does this mean that Zacchaeus was not worthy of meeting Jesus, or even dining with him? However, we must not forget that it was Jesus who noticed Zacchaeus and he too who invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house. ‘’Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man has come to seek and save the lost.’’(Lk 19: 9,10)
Zacchaeus seemed not to be satisfied with the wealth he had gained and seemingly risked a limb or two by climbing up a tree simply and maybe out of curiosity to see Jesus. Often I overhear others say that most rich and wealthy people’s lives are still empty and unhappy; that they are searching daily for something more. But what about the poor and not so fortunate man who has no wealth, riches or possessions? Is he searching too? Are they unhappy too? Having lived and experienced as well as observed both socio-economic divides, the answer is yes. Yes, all of us are searching for truth, for answers, for meaning, something that seems credible and hopefully give us to peace and happiness.
What does Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus say to us today? I suppose the question I would ask myself is this – am I willing to go ‘out on a limb’ for my faith? All of us, rich and poor, young and old have an inborn desire and longing for God. Today’s Gospel shows us a little man whose heart is restless until he saw Jesus. St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the church in his Confessions writes: ‘’Our hearts are restless until they rest in You. St. Thomas Aquinas and later St. Teresa of Avila describes it in a beautiful way: ‘’God alone suffices!’’ May we find rest and allow Jesus to minister to us today. We do not always have to be the ‘better’ person and send an invitation to Jesus. He loves us so much and is desperate for us to experience that love and forgiveness because he knows our longings. The conversion we need today can happen if we allow Jesus to ‘come to us for tea.’
Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the twon when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today’. And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount’. And Jesus said to him, ‘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 is lost’.