The Sunday of Zacchaeus

Though there is no special office for this Sunday, it is commonly seen as the beginning of our preparation for the Feast of our Lord’s Resurrection. Today we must be Zacchaeus. When Jesus came to Jericho, “Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.” Today is where we start our search for God, who is coming to take away the sin of the world. Today we must be filled with the desire to see God, as was Zacchaeus. Today we must acknowledge our sins, for Jesus is coming to our church, today he is coming into our homes, more exactly, into the home of our heart. What a contrast between Zacchaeus and the Blind Man of Jericho who could not see and begged Jesus for sight.

Zacchaeus could see and yet climbs the sycamore tree to get the best possible view. What a contrast between Zacchaeus and the rich young man. The rich young man could not let even one penny of his riches escape his grasp, but Zacchaeus says, “Half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” Today, Jesus tells us, “Salvation has come to this home.” It is already Pascha, if we turn to our Lord in his mercy, if we seek him with the zeal of Zacchaeus.

Today St. Paul’s promise is fulfilled, “We have set our hope on the living God, who is the savior of all, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10)” Today we must be among those who believe.

In Zacchaeus there is simplicity and honesty

Having just finished the Nativity Cycle we start moving toward the Lenten Cycle and Zacchaeus is our man. In fact, he’s the model of Christian conversion: turning toward the Lord.

“Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”(Luke 19:5) Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.” (19:9)

Jesus is passing through the town of Jericho and there is a crowd of people gathering to catch sight of the Lord passing by. Zacchaeus is one such person who had heard of Jesus’ talks (sermons) and miraculous deeds. However, Zaccheus has a disadvantage, an impediment: he is of small stature. So what does Zaccheus do? He climbs up a sycamore tree and this way he’d be able to catch a glimpse of the Lord passing by. This does not go unnoticed. Our Lord sees Zaccheus and says: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”

A reaction from the crowd follows. They had begun to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” Zaccheus was a tax collector who worked for the Roman government. And thus Zaccheus was not well-liked and looked down upon. Besides that, the crowd is judgmental over the Lord’s decision to become a guest at a sinner’s home, namely Zaccheus.

Nonetheless, Zaccheus holds his ground, defending his integrity: “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” (19:8) Repayment or restitution fourfold is indeed a great amount. For according to today’s Catholic moral teaching, restitution or repayment is to be made as close to the value or worth of what was wrongfully taken.

There is a simplicity and honesty in the dialogue between Zaccheus and Our Lord. Zaccheus was not hard-hearted, but rather had an openness of heart by which God finds a path to enter. Yes, He can even enter the heart of any and every sinner, no matter how great a sinner he or she is. To Zaccheus, Jesus had become the source of true joy and happiness here on earth, but more importantly for all eternity.

Zacchaeus Sunday

”He entered Jericho and was passing through. And there was a man named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector, and rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not, on account of the crowd, because he was small of stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today.’ So he made haste and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it they all murmured, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.’” (Lk 19: 1-10)

Zacchaeus, a despised tax-collector, did not feel “entitled” to meet the Lord, let alone receive Him in his house. But he also did not hide in his house, when Jesus was “passing through” Jericho, hoping just to catch a glimpse of the famous teacher from afar. And he didn’t hesitate to scramble up into a tree, to realize this humble ambition. Hence Zacchaeus’s great, life-changing joy at the Lord’s unexpected “Hello,” and politically-incorrect offering of fellowship to him, a despised tax-collector.

Humility does not feel “entitled,” when it comes to fellowship, be it with the Lord Himself, or with others. But humility also does not hide from fellowship in its own “house,” and embraces it joyfully when it is offered. That’s what I’m thinking, as we read this passage about Zacchaeus this upcoming Sunday, one week before the beginning of the “Lenten Triodion.” As Lent approaches, and I might find myself isolated in my “smallness of stature” with respect to the Lord and others in His vicinity, let me venture out of the “house” of my own head, and become a bit more open to Him and others. Let me “come and see,” wherever He happens to be “passing through” my neighborhood, this upcoming Lenten season. Because our Lord is a Lord Who tends to surprise those of us who venture out to catch a glimpse of Him, beyond our humble expectations.

Zacchaeus Sunday

Today is Zacchaeus Sunday! (Lk 19:1-10)
“Behold, salvation now enters the city of Jericho. Behold, salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus, the son of Abraham. May that same Salvation enter our hearts and our homes.”
Prep for the Great Fast (Lent) begins!