Lk 19: 1-10
He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.
When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him. All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
In Jesus’ day, tax collectors were reviled, seen as greedy backstabbers who skimmed off the top to deepen their pockets at the expense of their fellow Jews. They dealt with Gentiles, and worked for the Romans, making them unclean. In today’s Gospel, Jesus decides to dine with Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector. The crowds disapprove. Yet this man, whose morals were as high as his stature, ends up giving away half his possessions at story’s end. What accounts for this radical change of heart?
Many believe they must change in order for God to love them. Today’s scripture reveals a different dynamic: love is the cause, change is the consequence. Jesus’ drawing near to Zacchaeus, loving and accepting him just as he is, is what inspires Zacchaeus’ new way of being. Today, Jesus shows the redemptive power of intimate encounter. Salvation and reconciliation do not happen from a distance. Lean in.
Take, O take me as I am;
Summon out what I shall be;
Set Your seal upon my heart and live in me.
—Refrain of Take, O Take Me As I Am by John L. Bell, © 1995 Wild Goose Resource Group, Iona Community