31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle C
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “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.” (Luke 19:8)
As I reflect on this Gospel reading, encounter and transformation resonate with me. Zacchaeus has one goal: trying to see who Jesus is. This is an extremely simple task, but it requires courage and humility on Zacchaeus’ part.
As “a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,” Zacchaeus does not hold favor with his fellow Jews (19:1). He is in cahoots with the Roman occupation and is extorting the Jews of their money through taxation and builds his wealth from that. However, contempt runs deeper because as the chief tax collector, he oversees other Jews who do the same to their brethren.
Although a man of prominence in Jericho, Zacchaeus is willing to humble himself to see Jesus. He accomplishes his goal by not putting any barriers between himself and Christ. When his physical stature prohibits him from seeing Christ, he runs ahead and then climbs up a sycamore tree.
When Jesus passes under Zacchaeus and invites Himself to stay at his house, all who are there grumble because they view Zacchaeus as a sinner. Yet Zacchaeus “received him with joy” (19:6). Though Jesus “intended to pass through the town,” Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus causes Him to stop and pause His journey to Jerusalem (19:1).
With the desire of seeing Jesus exceeded, Zacchaeus undergoes a transformation through an encounter with Christ by receiving Him as Lord. He is now willing to become destitute for Him by giving away his possessions and repaying those he has defrauded. “Today salvation has come to this house,” Jesus tells him, not least because Zacchaeus is willing to repent and not be attached to his wealth (19:9).
We are like Zacchaeus as Christ “has come to seek and to save what was lost” (19:10). As such, each one of us can have an experience like Zacchaeus. Christ has come for us, comes to us, and calls us by name asking to stay with us.
What amazing things can Christ do to us, through us, and for others if we are seeking Him?