Readings: Wis 11:22-12:1; 2 Thess 1:11-2-22; Lk 19:1-10
Curiosity, a merciful God, who seeks and finds the lost, leading us to conversion, are the key words that unlock the message of this Sunday. The readings reveal to us a merciful God who seeks out and saves the sinner. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom leads us to meet a God who is merciful to all, who forgives and spares all things, because God is a lover of life. He does not want the sinner to perish, but to be saved at any cost.
The story of Zacchaeus in the Gospel reveals God who seeks out and saves sinners. Zacchaeus has heard that Jesus is coming, and out of curiosity, he wants to see Him. Zacchaeus is small in stature and, because of the crowd blocking his vision, he cannot see Jesus. Determined and curious to see Jesus, Zacchaeus first runs ahead and discovers that he is still lost in the crowd. Then he decides to climb a sycamore tree. In spite of being a rich and important man, he does not hesitate to climb a tree to see Jesus. By so doing, Zacchaeus in fact risks public ridicule because no adult ever ran in public and certainly no respectable person would ever climb a tree in public. Zacchaeus knows that he is not very welcome among the crowds anyway. He knows that many citizens might take the chance to give him a kick or a push and he would probably wind up bruised. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector in Jericho and a wealthy person because he extorted money from people for Roman taxes. He was therefore considered a traitor and a sinner and so people avoided associating with him publicly. Jesus refuses to conform to the expectations of his society and seeks to meet Zacchaeus who is anxious to see Jesus. On reaching the spot, Jesus calls him: "Zacchaeus, come down because I must stay at your house today". Jesus did this because "the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost". Although Jesus says nothing about conversion or about Zacchaeus leaving his job of collecting taxes, we notice that Zacchaeus in meeting Jesus becomes a totally changed person. He experiences a radical conversion of heart and Jesus acknowledges what has taken place in Zacchaeus. "Today salvation has come to this house". The story of Zacchaeus is our story too, because God searches out anyone who strays away from grace. But like Zacchaeus, we too must accept to come down and confess our sinfulness so that Christ may bring salvation into our lives. It requires our ability to open our hearts so we may hear Jesus inviting us to come down from our tree, so that Jesus may enter into our lives. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The story of Zacchaeus helps us to understand the mystery of God who seeks out and finds us when we are lost; 2) As in the case of Zacchaeus, God often uses curiosity and attraction to the Church as well as the sinfulness of her members to touch others; 3) Like Zacchaeus, we must risk our reputation and be determined to embrace God’s grace leading us to conversion.
©2019 John S. Mbinda