On November 3rd, we celebrated Sunday 31 in Ordinary Time – Year C
The Good News from the Readings (Wisdom 11: 22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1: 11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10), assured us that: We are all God’s children, and in God’s eyes, no one is beyond redemption, as long as we open the door of our hearts and let God take control of our lives.
The story of Zacchaeus the chief tax collector in the Gospel Reading is a good example. Zacchaeus’ life was a mess. As a tax collector, he was despised as among the worst sinners. Tax collectors benefited from the corrupt and unjust system of taxation, making themselves wealthy, during the Roman occupation of the Holy Land. So, in the eyes of many, Zacchaeus was a thief and traitor.
Zacchaeus’ small size, perhaps had nothing with his physical appearance, but rather had more to do with all the bad things he did which made him small in the presence of those he exploited and cheated. However, Zacchaeus had a burning desire to become a better man and was looking for a way of out his sinful life. He admired Jesus, and when Jesus came to town, Zacchaeus seized the moment, but there was a problem: he could not see Jesus through the crowds since he was short in stature. Climbing the sycamore tree solved his problem - an expression that he found a way to rise above his weaknesses. All the vanity which had crowed his life and made him spiritually blind to see God, he finally overcame.
Zacchaeus’s courageous decision to climb the sycamore tree completely changed his life. With just a simple invitation from our Lord, calling him out: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house”, his heart melted and was filled with new life. Zacchaeus made a commitment to give half of his possessions to the poor, and repay four times over, anyone he had defrauded. His personal encounter with Jesus made him discover that true happiness is not in material possessions, but in loving God and loving others. Zacchaeus, at last, grew and matured not in stature, but in faith, honesty, love and truth. He became a new man. The old Zacchaeus gave way to the new Zacchaeus.
Bernardo Strozzi 1581 – 1644 The Conversion of Zacchaeus
Zacchaeus’s new life challenges each of us to ask ourselves a relevant question: “What is the sycamore tree that you and I have to climb to encounter Christ?”
The sycamore tree may take many forms. Could mean: spending more time in prayer; being more generous with our material blessing; finding courage to rise above our fears and mistrust, and allowing God to take of control of our lives; coming to Mass more often; forgiving and being forgiven; more patience and trusting more. Whatever tree we need to climb to encounter Jesus, salvation awaits us. No matter how sinful, lousy, chaotic, or messy our lives may feel, Jesus seeks us out and comes to meet us. In the Sacraments, Jesus, stands at the door and knocking. Are you and I ready to open the door of our hearts to let him in?
Peace be with you!