Zacchaeus, the man in the tree

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

Are there occasions in your life when you find yourself up a tree and unpopular with others; or a time when you are called to put aside the money-making because something more important has hit town, a time when you just have to find out what all the fuss is about, a time for Jesus?

Even with the wealth he has accumulated for himself and the Roman authority which ruled at the time, Zacchaeus still falls short on many things, not only in height but also in love. He is despised and looked down upon by the people for the way he extorts money and profits from collecting taxes. No way are they going to let him push through the crowds to get sight of Jesus coming through Jericho. Instead he is forced to secure a view by scrambling up a sycamore tree.

This struggle doesn’t stay with Zacchaeus. Too often it is the lowly in life who draw the ‘short’ straw, who are unable to tower above those that stand tall. But never in the eyes of Jesus.

While the people prefer to look down on Zacchaeus, it is Jesus who looks up to him as he sits perched in the tree. It is Jesus who honours him by inviting himself to the hated tax-collector’s house. While Zacchaeus may gain reward in exploiting others, it doesn’t compare to the joy he experiences when Jesus enriches him with his presence. But one man’s joy can be another man’s suffering – and the crowd complain when they see what has had happened! They are outraged that Jesus, a respected teacher and healer, is prepared to stay at a sinner’s house.

Jesus never loses sight of those with shortcomings, those considered tainted and unworthy of love by others. Jesus has eyes for everyone – for those who stand proudly tall, and for the those who fall ashamedly short.

Little children, so that you may comprehend my words which I give you out of love, pray, pray, pray and you will be able to accept others with love and to forgive all who have done evil to you. Respond with prayer; prayer is a fruit of love towards God the Creator. Thank you for having responded to my call.
part message, September 25, 1997

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