JESUS’ ENCOUNTER WITH ZACCHAEUS
First Reading: Wisdom 11:22—12:2
Responsorial Psalm 145:1-2,8-9,10-11,13,14
Second Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:11—2:2
Gospel Reading: Luke 19:1-10
We are still contemplating Jesus’ ultimate journey to Jerusalem. Today, we are told that he passed through the city of Jericho. There, in that city, Jesus would hold two encounters that would change the lives of two people, Zacchaeus and a man who was blind and lived on the side of the road. Zacchaeus was the head of the publicans and he was so rich, he commanded and organized all the tax collection at that time. However, he was a man so hated by his own brethren that he needed to be accompanied at all times by two Roman guards. Since Zacchaeus was the head of the publicans, who were they? In the religious view, publicans had the same status as sinners, prostitutes and lepers. This means that Zacchaeus was considered by his own brothers and sisters as a very sinful man, he was reprehensible, so he was considered unclean.
Now, I want to present a good thing about Zacchaeus. Starting with his own name, which in Hebrew means: “my purity”. His name comes from the root “to purify” and from that we can see that his parents were certainly Jews, adherents and faithful to the Jewish tradition. They gave him a name that means “my purity,” and sure enough, Zacchaeus was taught in the way of the Lord, taught to respect the law of the prophets. But the son of purity was lost, he became corrupted. Greed and desire for the facilities that money and wealth can bring spoke louder in Zacchaeus’ life. We can also say from the story of Zacchaeus that, since his parents were Jewish, faithful and served Yahweh, he was certainly raised within that reality. Then a seed was sown in his heart. And that seed remained there, even as latent as it was, it was deep inside his soul. How important it is for us, who are parents, to take our children from an early age to Church, to Holy Mass, and to participate in prayer groups. Because, in this way, the seed will be falling into their hearts, just as it fell into Zacchaeus’.
And in the last hour, that Word, that seed, took effect. One day his faith came by hearing, and by hearing the Word of Jesus. Well, he was looking to see Jesus, because something must have resonated in his heart. As we have seen, he was hated by everyone, and yet he exposed himself. Imagine the number of people that were passing by, the crowd that wanted to see Jesus. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, so he made a decision. He took a chance, ran, and climbed a tree. In this same city, Jericho, was that blind man named Bartimaeus, he cried out, “Lord, Lord, have mercy on me.” But that crowd prevented his voice from reaching Jesus. And we have Zacchaeus, who was a short man, and the crowd prevented him from seeing Jesus, however, both did not stop at their limitations. What has limited you? Will it be a “crowd” of sin, self-indulgence, laziness, and discouragement?
How many times do we miss the opportunity to meet Jesus and from that meeting have the experience to change our lives forever? Blind Bartimaeus and Zacchaeus did not stop at their limitations. And one was extremely poor, while the other was extremely rich. However, God did not look at their condition; and he doesn’t look at ours. He doesn’t look at whether we are poor or rich, but he looks at our hearts, regardless of who we are. The decision must be ours. The decision to receive Jesus into our hearts, to get out of our complacency, our self-pity. Jesus is passing by and today is the day of our salvation.
We often miss the opportunity to meet the One who can definitely change our life. For what changes our life, what transforms it, is our encounter with Jesus. Christ is that merciful Saviour who overlooks our sinful state before coming to us and granting us salvation. All he needs is our collaboration to accept him in our hearts. And speaking of how this God comes to us while we are still sinners, the first reading from the Book of Wisdom gives us a better insight. The writer, a learned sage from the ancient university city of Alexandria, was attempting to boost the Faith of his fellow Jews by answering the question, “Why doesn’t God do away with evil men?” The answer is that, unlike men, God is benevolent toward all His creatures. God´s love for what He has created becomes a redemptive love through His mercy. God loves His creation, and because of this love He pardons and is patient with people who have gone astray, so that they may repent. God’s Providence for all His creatures is clearly shown through His strength and the compassion with which He both can and does deal mercifully with all men. What the Book of Wisdom tells us is that we could not even exist if we were not loved by God. Through His gifts of Faith and Love, God graciously calls each one of us. Through this Divine mercy, we see the fulfillment of the promise, “For I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more” (Jer 31:34; Heb 8:12). This Sunday’s first reading consoles us saying, “You overlook people’s sins so that they may repent” (11:23).
Beloved Friends, God gives us the opportunity to change our lives, just as Zacchaeus did. But, he ran to meet Jesus, made the decision to seek Him, and rejoiced with the arrival of Jesus in his home. Today, Jesus wants to bring you salvation. If you welcome Him with joy, your life will never be the same, because where He enters, evil withdraws.
Written by Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Loreto, Vila Mediros, São Paulo
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PS: Have you prayed your Rosary today?