Today’s Gospel (Luke 19:1-10. ) is a dangerous gospel for some people! Think of the risk: if we repent and respond to Jesus just like Zacchaeus did, it just might cost us more than half of our possessions!
Zacchaeus probably grew up facing all kinds of adversity. He was very short, and probably either skinny or fat. So I suspect he was the object and target of the bullies in his school. After all, bullies only pick on someone who is smaller or wears glasses or has some other kind of physical challenge. Being bullied with no one to protect you leads to isolation, and probably a secret desire for revenge. Imagine his joy when he became the winning bidder for the position of chief tax collector for the oppressive government! No one would dare to pick on him any longer! And those who abused him in the past would pay dearly for their behaviour! So he began to gather great wealth at the expense of those he chose to defraud by excessive tax charges. And it was all legal, because his
income came from what he could collect over and above his tax quota set by the government.
True to his mission to call sinners, Jesus invites himself to the home of Zacchaeus for a meal! To have such a holy and famous rabbi (which is what Zacchaeus thought of Jesus) enter the house and dine with a sinner (i.e., a tax collector) was scandalous in the eyes of the Jewish religious leaders. Zacchaeus didn’t care what they thought. He had been isolated his whole life, first by bullies and now by religious leaders; today was no different than any other.
But the simple and loving acceptance by Jesus of Zacchaeus was itself a challenge. Jesus’ love broke through the barriers to this sinner’s heart, and Zacchaeus was converted on the spot. Out of a grateful heart, he promised to
repay anyone he had defrauded; furthermore, he showed his repentance and gratitude by giving half of his wealth to the poor.
Here are the challenges. First, are you willing to put Jesus ahead of your possessions? How will you demonstrate your choice? Secondly, is there someone from whom you need to seek forgiveness for your own bullying actions?
KNOW YOUR CATECHISM!
CCC 1443 reminds us that in his public life Jesus forgave sinners and restored them to the community of the People of God. He calls us disciples to be forgiving and welcoming, carrying on his mission. A remarkable sign of this is the fact that Jesus receives sinners at his table, a gesture that expresses in an astonishing way both God’s forgiveness and the return to the bosom of the People of God -
604: During his public life Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: he reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the People of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them.
“CCC” stands for Catechism of the Catholic Church: -
An online version can be found at: http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc2.htm.
The NRSV bible version can be found at: http://www.devotions.net/bible/00bible.htm