2 Thessalonians 1:11-2a:2
Luke 19: 1-10
"Today salvation has come to this house."
Today’s gospel is one of my favorite Scripture passages. It is the story about a tax collector named Zacchaeus and how his life is transformed during a single encounter with Jesus.
The theme of today’s readings is summed up in the last line of the gospel, where Jesus says to Zacchaeus: "today, salvation has come to this house," and Jesus goes on to emphasize that he has come "to seek and to save what was lost".
Zacchaeus was a little man who did a little thing. He climbed a sycamore tree to see Jesus as he was about to pass by. He was probably just curious, because there was nothing in his background that would indicate that he was a person of faith. Quite the contrary.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector (in Jesus’ day, they were in the same category as thieves, murderers, and prostitutes!). He was not just a tax collector, but the CHIEF tax collector, sort of the "Godfather" of the tax collector mafia. Luke portrays him as a kind of lovable Danny
DeVito like character who simply wanted to see Jesus, not meet him.
But Jesus spotted Zacchaeus, who was willing to "go out on a limb" and Jesus called him by name. "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house". Zacchaeus came down quickly and greeted him with joy. The crowd on the other hand was shocked. But Jesus is more interested in the outcast than the outraged. Jesus does not condemn Zacchaeus, nor does he exact repentance from him. Rather, he looks beyond his sins and gives Zacchaeus the space and the grace, in an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance, to choose to redirect his life. And he does. He is transformed from a TAKER to a GIVER.
Zacchaeus repents and makes a public amends for his wrongdoing, offering to give half of his possessions to the poor and to repay those he extorted four times what they are entitled to.
The true attitude of prayer is when we allow ourselves to be open to God’s unconditional love for us. And, as Zacchaeus discovered, our lives will be transformed in a most profound way. We take one small step towards Christ and he takes one GIANT step into our lives. Jesus comes to us just as we are but does not leave us as we were. Allow salvation to come to your house.
Deacon Brian Clements is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California