“Today salvation has come to this house” ~ Luke 19:9
In today’s Gospel (Luke 19:1-10) we encounter Zacchaeus, the illicit and vertically challenged tax collector who, upon hearing of Jesus’ arrival in Jericho, climbed high atop a nearby sycamore tree in order to catch a better glimpse of this man who was rapidly becoming the talk of the town.
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house” Jesus says upon spotting him, prompting Zacchaeus to climb down swiftly from his perch. We are told that in doing so, he “received Jesus with great joy.”
What’s particularly striking about this passage isn’t necessarily Zacchaeus’ conversion, it’s more about the speed and depth of his about-face. “Behold,” Zacchaeus proclaims, “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." Wow.
All of this after merely laying eyes on Jesus? Perhaps this speaks to the fact that the truth was written on Zacchaeus’ heart, as it is written on your heart and mine and everyone else’s, this by virtue of our Baptism; sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Living the life of an extortionist, a glorified government-appointed shakedown artist, was not who Zacchaeus truly was and certainly not what God created and willed him to be. he, like all of us, was the beloved child of the King of the Universe, a Solemnity which we celebrate this Sunday as fate would have it. Oftentimes however we get lost along the way, forgetting that we are destined by our Creator for far greater things than mere societal status, wealth, and the other fleeting things that Zacchaeus and all of us will at times settle for. For Zacchaeus, it would seem that his true inner self was craving to be unleashed, craving to repent, and yes, craving to make amends. Times four.
Jesus has a divine role for each of us in his Kingdom, whether we be rich or poor, powerful or meek, sinner or saint. Zacchaeus for instance was a rich and powerful sinner, yet here we are in the year 2020 still reading about him, gaining enrichment, wisdom and foresight from his dramatic conversion tale.
What is your role? Through the gifts of wisdom, discernment and understanding that are yours courtesy of the Holy Spirit, the answers will surely come during the quiet moments of prayer and Eucharistic Adoration. And although patience is in fact a virtue, be sure to make like Zacchaeus and move quickly. For the Kingdom is truly at hand. And “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10).