Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today
(For Lectio Divina in the Households, read Luke 19:1-10)
Our reflection during the last month focused on the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin where we saw an aspect of mercy in action; of actively seeking out the lost and those in need around us and showing mercy towards them. We see yet another aspect of God's mercy in action in the person of Jesus at his encounter with Zacchaeus.
The encounter with Zacchaeus (see Lk 19: 1-10) bridges the gap between the merciful character of God the Father and the manner of Jesus in putting mercy into action. The encounter is described in stages. A crowd gathers to welcome Jesus at the gates of Jericho while he is on his way to Jerusalem. Zacchaeus is a man who has become wealthy by being a tax collector, a profession that was considered unclean. Because of his short stature he cannot see Jesus, so he climbs up a sycamore tree, and Jesus notices him and invites himself to Zacchaeus' house. The tax collector welcomes him joyfully, but the people grumble against Jesus. Zacchaeus publicly promises to give half of his goods to the poor and to restore fourfold what he has stolen. The turning point is in Jesus' declaration, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for I must stay at your house today" (Lk 19: 5). The verb "must" refers not to what Jesus wants from Zacchaeus but to God's will that is about to be realized. We could say it this way: "it is a must for God."
The will of the Father is accomplished every time Jesus recognizes the urgency of mercy for sinners. It is the will of God that salvation comes to Zacchaeus. Such a salvation cannot be postponed but happens now. Jesus' statement, "I must stay at your house today," parallels the statement, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham" (Lk 19:9). To meet Jesus is to see the merciful face of God who is always thinking about the salvation of sinners, a salvation that occurs in the present at the time of the encounter. Right up to his last breath Jesus is bringing salvation to a sinner. When the thief on the cross asks Jesus to remember him, Jesus assures him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise"(Lk 23:43).
One sentence can summarize the mercy of God that permeates the life of Jesus: "The Son of man came to seek and to save the lost" (Lk 19:10). Jesus has saved the lost sheep, has found the missing coin, and has gone forth to seek the lost sons and daughters. God's love for sinners motivates this action among human beings as well. We can see that God's character is mercy itself.
Let us look from the point of view of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus so much, that he took the effort to climb upon a tree. This great desire to see Jesus resulted in an encounter that changed his entire life. Jesus offers mercy to everyone he encounters and the offer of mercy and salvation is swift. The words "must" and "today" convey the sense of necessity and the urgency with which God shows mercy.
In our lives too, let us yearn to see Jesus and He will fulfil this desire with a merciful encounter. Like Zacchaeus, let us open our homes for God's mercy to dwell in us. Our lives too will also then become blessed and we are transformed into true missionary disciples of Jesus.
I look at Jesus in his Eucharist. Could his love perhaps provide anything more beautiful? If He is bread, we ourselves become bread and give ourselves.
St. Albert Chmielowski
God excludes no one, neither the poor nor the rich. God does not let himself be conditioned by our human prejudices, but sees in everyone a soul to save and is especially attracted to those who are judged as lost and who think themselves so. Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God, has demonstrated this immense mercy, which takes nothing away from the gravity of sin, but aims always at saving the sinner, at offering him the possibility of redemption, of starting over from the beginning, of converting. In another passage of the Gospel Jesus states that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 19:23). In the case of Zacchaeus we see that precisely what seems impossible actually happens: "He," St. Jerome comments, "gave away his wealth and immediately replaced it with the wealth of the Kingdom of Heaven" (Homily on Psalm 83:3). And Maximus of Turin adds: "Riches, for the foolish, feed dishonesty, but for the wise they are a help to virtue; for the latter they offer a chance of salvation, for the former they procure a stumbling block and perdition.
Pope Benedict XVI
Angelus,St Peter's Square, Oct. 31, 2010
Advise the doubtful, welcome the stranger
Zacchaeus had an ardent desire to meet Jesus as he wanted to know what Jesus was like. This made him follow the right conscience of his heart and he found his salvation! Following the same voice within us, let us try to discern truth in everything we do. Like Zacchaeus, let us also strive to see the face of Jesus in others and to open our hearts and homes joyfully for them. Prudently using the favourable opportunities and by concrete gestures of mercy, let's make them feel that they are loved and valued. With a vigilance of compassion and love let's help them to escape the doubt that could make them fall into despair.
Mother Mary, Mother of good counsel, pray for us. Hail Mary...