We used to sing the Sunday School song, “Zachaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he, he climbed up into a sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see, and the Lord said, “Zachaeus! You come down!”
There are a lot of nice details in the story–all of which bear a deeper meaning. Why did Zachaeus climb up the tree in the first place? Yes, to get a better view to see the Lord, but I think he also wanted a place to see the Lord from a safe distance. He wanted to be an observer, but Christianity is not a spectator sport and Jesus calls him out and tells him to come down.
Zachaeus was little in stature, but he was not yet little in character. In fact, he was trying to be big. He reminds me of a Danny DeVito character–a feisty little man who is trying to compensate for his height by being a big shot. He’s a tax collector. He’s got power and influence. But Jesus tells him to come down.
If we’re going to follow Christ we have to come down from our perch. In other words, we have to come down where we ought to be. We have to be lowered. We have to descend. We have to become little. That’s why the story is so sweet, because Zachaeus is the first one to follow Christ in the Little Way. He and Therese walk hand in hand. I can see it in heaven when she met him and stooped down and said with girlish delight, “Why you’re little too!”
Then Jesus says he is going to Zachaeus’ house for a meal. That’s where it all comes home to the Eucharist. We come down. We meet Christ. We repent of our sins. We make amends. He comes in to dwell with us.
It’s the whole story in one story, and so it is. The cosmos is reduced to one person’s story. The great story is re-lived in each life of faith. The great adventure is as small as each individual and as universal as the Great Mystery. It is both large and little at the same time. It is macrocosmic in the microcosmic.
It is the gospel enfleshed in the story of the little man. May it be so enfleshed in me.