October 30, 2022
“Zacchaeus, the Little Man With a Big Heart”
First Reading (Wisdom 11. 22 – 12.2)
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 145)
Second Reading (2 Thessalonians 1. 11 – 2.2)
Gospel (Luke 19: 1- 10)
Jesus 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 Jesus, 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 Zacchaeus hurried down and was happy to welcome Jesus. 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 possession, Lord, I will give
to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as
Then Jesus said of him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because Zacchaeus too is a
son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
Meals are regular feature of Luke’s Gospel. On many occasions, the meal is the setting for a
significant teaching. In Simon’s house Jesus teaches about mercy (Luke 7: 40 – 50), at the
Pharisee’s house he challenges self-righteousness (14: 1 – 14), at the meal on the way to Emmaus
the disciples recognize Jesus as risen from the dead (24: 30 – 32).
Unlike these stories, the visit to Zacchaeus’ home is intriguing in that we are not invited to
witness the narrative at the meal. We know that Jesus choosing to stay with Zacchaeus has a
transformative impact upon him. For Zacchaeus to be rich he must defraud his own people and
allow the Romans to protect him. He is reviled. Jesus’ visit is enough to restore Zacchaeus’
integrity and he is determined to make amends for the injustices that have made him wealthy.
Zacchaeus had his own personal and hereditary problems. One day he felt it. He believed that
Jesus was the one who can offer such life which he was lacking. So he did something of his own
accord. He did not directly invite Jesus; he did not publicly print an invitation and hand it over to
Jesus; he did not do any extraordinary thing. He simply climbed up the sycamore tree in order to
look at Jesus. Climbing up a s sycamore tree is not a big deal either.
But there is something behind such act. He got out of the crowd; he forgot his limitations; his
heart was beating fast with a longing to see Jesus, to come in contact with him; like any other
curious people he would have desired to see Jesus. But he did something of his own accord, with
free will; he performed what he was able to do despite people’s ridicules and prejudices. He
didn’t worry about his short stature or about what others would think about his uncouth way of
climbing up a tree publicly as small children, though, he was a big shot with riches. Jesus, on his
part, who was in search of such persons who were longing to see him found this man and told him
‘I will come today to dine with you.’ Conversion takes place; mutual sharing happens; salvation
comes to this man and his household.
Jesus is calling constantly people for deeper conversion. Calling constantly and giving them
grace. But it is up to the individual to act upon it. Zacchaeus was a tax collector, he was a big
sinner. Tax collectors would extract more money with their unfair means and they were
considered notorious sinners. Zacchaeus was a wealthy man too and materialistic and yet Jesus
calls him. Jesus doesn’t give up on him. And Zacchaeus acts upon this invitation. And he gives
him the grace the shuttled grace so seek him. But we see there are obstacles. First it is the
crowd, (Societal obstacle) the big crowd that is preventing him seeing Jesus, secondly (personal
obstacle) he is a short man. What does he do he runs a head of the crowd. This is taking a big
chance. Because for a grown up man that is considered shameful and silly in those days. People
don’t do that. That is ridiculous.
Zacchaeus doesn’t care what other people think of him. So he runs ahead and climbs a sycamore
tree. For a grown man this is not dignified thing to do. Zacchaeus had to climb a sycamore tree
to see Jesus because he was so short. If it were anybody else who climbed a sycamore tree it
would not be a surprise because farmers and horticulturalists climbed sycamore trees every year to
slit the sycamore figs to help them ripen. (Book of Amos 7:14). Sycamore trees in Palestine are
not the sycamore trees of the West. But class distinctions between people were pronounced and
when the chief tax collector Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree it shows that he was serious
about seeing Jesus. Already he is making an act of humility before his townspeople and Jesus.
Likewise in with us. Every time Jesus invites someone to seek him, there are obstacles. First of
all there could be societal obstacles, perhaps in a family that is not Christian, not Catholics or not
believers, may be your friends do not practice their faith. I know the woman who comes to me
that she says that her husband is not a Catholic but he promised before marriage that he would co-
operate with her raising children born of their marriage as Catholics. But he stopped after some
time. And now she and her children participate in the Sacramental life of the Church. She feels
sad. She has to overcome this big family obstacle. And when you do this, you are rewarded.
Zaccheus received much more. Jesus meets him at his level. And again this is an invitation.
Jesus never forces on anybody. Zaccheus comes down quickly and receives Jesus with joy. He
responds to the grace fully. And here he does 180 degree conversion. The law back then
required that you repay someone twice over but he goes over and above and beyond the law and
pays twice back . Zacchaeus’ humility was rewarded as Jesus asked him to come down from the
tree and wanted to visit his home. Zacchaeus was probably the most despised man in Jericho and
had the honor of receiving Jesus in his home. Zacchaeus showed repentance as he proclaimed,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything
from anyone I shall repay it four times over. (Luke 19:8)
Zacchaeus promised to restore what he has stolen or defrauded; he will make restitution for any
injustice he has committed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Those who, directly
or indirectly, have taken possession of the goods of another, are obliged to make restitution of
them, or to return the equivalent in kind or in money, if the goods have disappeared, as well as the
profit or advantages their owner would have legitimately obtained from them. Likewise, all who
in some manner have taken part in a theft or who have knowingly benefited from it – for example,
those who ordered it, assisted in it, or received the stolen goods – are obliged to make restitution in
proportion to their responsibility and to their share of what was stolen. (CCC 2412).
Zacchaeus put this teaching in practice. All the townspeople in Jericho were grumbling about
Jesus staying with Zacchaeus because of his previous behavior but Jesus publicly vindicated
Zacchaeus after his promise to make restitution, Today salvation has come to this house because
this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what
was lost. (Luke 19:9-10)
And I see this all the time. Jesus invites people but they hesitate. Sometimes they seek him
sometimes not. They do not come down quickly. They test the water and then they back-up.
They don’t bear the fruit. They don’t go through a powerful conversion because of their
hesitation. No matter where we are Jesus meet us at our level . He is calling us constantly to a
deeper conversion to love him, to know him and follow him. There are obstacles, perhaps we are
tired, perhaps a pride, perhaps there is an emotional wound, or you might have had bad experience
with a priest whatever it is, but you have to co overcome these obstacles. We have to be
courageous and determined in order to receive grace.
Jesus enters into the lives of human persons and shares with them his powerful, plentiful, joyful
and peaceful eternal life. As soon as these people hear the identity and the invitation of Jesus ‘I
want you’ in their hearts they decide to do something about it. They slowly but intensively start
climbing up their sycamore tree. They use whatever is available in their hands and environment.
They do not worry about what others say and think. By all means they want to come in contact
with Jesus. I have seen many ordinary people performing some ridiculous and weird things as
Zacchaeus climbing up the sycamore tree. They are simple like little children; they are fully
convinced of Jesus and his worth; they hold on to what they perform with a strong will. Thus they
attain their reward in this world, enjoying eternal life.
We have a church, a beautiful sycamore tree. But most of us do not use it properly. Even those
who start to climb up that tree, do not stay long. No patience and endurance; no intensity; no fire;
no enthusiasm; they are filled with fear suspicion and entangled and distract by day today
problems. While most of us do want to climb up the mountain of the Lord to enjoy his eternal life
but we do not want to climb up the sycamore tree in daily life. First let us climb up our sycamore
tree in daily life. First, let us climb up our sycamore tree to come in contact with him. All that
we perform in the Church, as rituals are a part of such climbing up the sycamore tree. Let us
today and in future perform everything with free will, of our own accord and with intensity of
longing and loving Jesus. Surely he will come to us with his gift.
St. Therese of Lisieux, in her thirteenth letter to her sister Céline, says that Jesus revealed much
to them by making them climb a mystical tree and now Jesus says to them, “come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.” (Luke 19:5). If St. Therese of Lisieux could write to her
sister Céline, also a Carmelite nun, that Jesus is saying to come down quickly because he wants to
stay at her house today, surely Jesus is saying to each of us to come down quickly because he
wants to stay at our house today. Jesus wants to stay with you. Is your heart ready to receive
Jesus? We see from Zacchaeus that just the slightest turning toward Jesus is rewarded many times
more by Jesus. We may sometimes put limits on God’s goodness and love and mercy like the
people of Jericho but God’s goodness and love and mercy toward us is infinite if we just come
down from our tree and invite Jesus to our heart. The first reading today also points out God’s
mercy, you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook the sins of men
that they may repent. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made. “
But you are merciful to all, for you can do all things and you overlook people’s sins so that they
may repent”. (Wisdom 11:22, 23- 12. 2)
In today’s second reading (2 Thessalonians 1. 11 – 2.2) Saint Paul tell us what a glorious calling
we have in Christ Jesus. Because of our faith in His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, we
are called children of God and have a dear and gracious heavenly Father, Who is the God of all
mercies. In His grace He has promised to help us in times of troubles and to comfort us in times of
Christ died so that we might live and throughout his writings to the Church, Paul emphases the
importance of being worthy of our calling, so that by His goodness and grace we are enabled to
fulfill every desire for good.. and to complete the work of faith, which God has started in each of
our lives, in the power of His might.
Indeed, the Lord Himself told us that in this world we would have tribulation and would be called
upon to suffer for His names sake… But as members of His body, we know that the more we
suffer for righteousness sake the more we are comforted by this great God of all-comforts, Who
has purchased us with the precious blood of His only begotten Son, and has graciously adopted us
into His heavenly family – so that we may now address Him as Abba-Father.
Will you come down from your tree, abandon sin, and invite Jesus to your heart? Jesus knows you
are seeking him today, like Zacchaeus, and Jesus is looking at you, saying to you he wants to stay
with you. Will you, like Zacchaeus, abandon anything that may be keeping you apart from Jesus,
and then enjoy even more of Jesus in your life? Jesus wants to meet you today. Jesus doesn’t want
you to come here just to fulfill a Sunday obligation or simply because you know Jesus wants you
here, but Jesus wants to meet you here and stay with you for the rest of this week. Will you come
down from your tree, abandon sin, and invite Jesus to your heart and allow him stay with you for
the rest of this week?