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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Come Down from that Tree!

A wealthy man in Jericho had heard the news. A poor homeless Messiah by the name of Jesus was at that very moment getting ready to pass through Jericho. The rich guy's name is Zacchaeus. He's an effective tax collector in Jericho and a powerful man. Quickly he runs to the outskirts of town to see Jesus. He had heard that he was a Prophet mesmerizing crowds everywhere. But why seek after a dusty and dirty poor Jew like Jesus when he was rich, clean and living in luxury? Obviously his wealth was not satisfying him. He chose to brave Times-Square-like crowds that were gathering on the countryside.

Okay, he may be wealthy but genetics were not on his side. He's short. He reminds us of that one relative that some have – the one lovingly nicknamed aunt or uncle "shortie." Clearly, he has learned how to compensate for being short by buying big houses, owning big chariots and powerful horses. Today, he compensates once again. Ahead of Jesus, Zacchaeus climbs up a tree that overhangs onto the highway. Finally they make eye contact. He sees Jesus - Wow! He has the beatific vision that we all hope for and it happens to this sinner. Jesus shouts, "Zacchaeus, come down." In essence Jesus says, "I see you. I love you. I want to come into your house. I want to dwell in the house of your very soul."

What happens next is both dramatic and powerful for a wealthy short guy that when he woke up was expecting a normal day like any other day. But this day became radically different. Because he has had the beatific vision of seeing God, he discovers there is only one response to make: Zacchaeus says, "Behold, half of my possessions, [mucho dinero] Lord, I will give to the poor and if I have extorted from anyone I shall repay it four times over."

So in a nutshell, Zacchaeus demonstrates what really happens when each of us truly encounters Jesus. Not just intellectually reading or hearing about Jesus, but when we really see him. Our immediate response should be to give to the poor and to the homeless. Some Christians believe serving the poor is a charism or apostolate reserved for Franciscans or for workers at a rescue mission on Skid Row. In reality, Zacchaeus tells us that it is the mission of each Christian to give to the poor. Like Zacchaeus, we are to turn our wills to God by "climbing the tree" to see Jesus. For most, "climbing the tree" is getting out of bed and driving our cars to Sunday service. The tree itself is our Sunday gathering. It is where we look out and see Jesus in each other, in the liturgy of the Word and in the breaking of the bread. How many will respond like Zacchaeus?

1 comment:

Raby Savage said...

The tax collector took action. Great lesson!