He entered Jericho and was passing through it. 2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. 7 All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” 8 Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” 9 Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”-Luke 19:1-10 NRSV
Zacchaeus And Dishonesty
In the Gospel reading from today’s Mass we read about a man named Zacchaeus. We read that he was short in stature and that he was anxious to see Jesus. In the Gospel we also read that he was a tax collector and rich. In the time of Christ, being a tax collector is nothing like it was today.
One was able to line their own pockets by charging more that what was owed. The tax collector could even make up a tax and extort the people. The profession was lucrative, but was despised in the time of Christ.
It was despised because one in the business was an agent of the Roman government. The Romans were occupying Israel at the time, and anyone of Jewish decent working for them had a status lower than a dog. They were shunned and their family disowned them. For a Jewish person to associate with a tax collector would make them unclean and they would not be part of community life. It was a huge deal.
Compassion And Faith
Zacchaeus knew this, but more importantly so did Jesus. However Jesus didn’t care what others thought because he knew the heart of Zacchaeus. The poor tax collector was short, but did everything he could to see Jesus passing by.
In a truly emotional event, Jesus looks up at Zacchaeus and says that he (Jesus) will have dinner in his house. Notice what happens next.
He turns from his former life and follows Jesus. Like Zacchaeus, each of us has a past and is not proud of something we have done. Jesus looks past that, He loves us unconditionally, but he loves us too much to allow us to remain in our sinful ways.
That would not be love or grace. When we repent and look to Jesus we break the chains of slavery to sin. We give it to the Lord and allow him to bring something good out of the mess we made while in slavery to sin.
That is how we are like Zacchaeus, we sin and fall short. Yet Jesus seeks us out and we seek Jesus. That is how our lives change.
Repentance raises the fallen, mourning knocks at the gate of Heaven, and holy humility opens it.-St. John Climacus
Fear and honor, praise and bless, thank and adore the Lord God Almighty, in Trinity and Unity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Creator of all things. Do not put off any longer confessing all your sins, for death will soon come. Give and it will be given you; forgive and you will be forgiven. . . Blessed are they who die repentant, for they shall go to the Kingdom of Heaven! But woe to those who are not converted, for these children of the Devil will go with their father into everlasting fire. Be watchful, therefore. Shun evil, and persevere in well-doing until the end.-Saint Francis of Assisi
Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.-St. John Chrysostom