Sunday, November 3, 2013
The conversion of Zacchaeus
a) Opening prayer:
O God, creator and Father of all the children of Abraham, grant us the light of your Spirit that we may serve you well and worthily, grant that we may follow in the footsteps of your Word and that our actions may reflect that we are disciples of the one Master who became man for love of us and for our salvation.
b) A reading of the Gospel:
1 He entered Jericho and was going through the town 2 and suddenly a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. 3 He kept trying to see which Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; 4 so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him, 'Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today.' 6 And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. 7 They all complained when they saw what was happening. 'He has gone to stay at a sinner's house,' they said. 8 But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, 'Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.' 9 And Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost.'
c) A moment of silence:
so that the Word of God may penetrate us and enlighten our life.
a) A key to the reading:
In the Gospel story, Luke likes to show the mercy of the Master towards sinners and Lk 19: 1-10 is one example. The story of the conversion of Zacchaeus tells us that no human condition is incompatible with salvation: Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham, (Lk 19: 9) says Jesus. The opening text of chapter 19 comes after the teachings and attitudes that Jesus presents to us in chapter 18. In that chapter we find the parable of the Pharisee who judges and the Publican who humbles himself before God and begs for pardon (Lk 18: 9-14). Then there is the scene where Jesus welcomes the children, warning the disciples that it is to anyone who is a child such as these that the kingdom of God belongs…anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Lk 18: 16-17). Immediately after this, Jesus tells the rich aristocrat who wishes to obtain eternal life (Lk 18: 18) of the need to sell everything and distribute the money to the poor in order to follow Jesus and obtain treasure in heaven (Lk 18: 22). Then comes the teaching of Jesus on riches that are an obstacle to salvation and the promise of a reward for those who renounce all for the sake of the Kingdom of God (Lk 18: 24-30). These parts of chapter 18 seem to lead us to the story of the conversion of Zacchaeus. Before the story of Zacchaeus we have two texts which contain important details:
1. The third prophecy of the passion where Jesus reminds us thatnow we are going up to Jerusalem (Lk 18: 31). It would seem that Luke wishes to place everything within the context of the following of Christ; and
2. The healing of the blind man of Jericho, who called Jesus, even though the crowd stopped him from going to the Master (Lk 18: 35-39). Once more, Jesus gives light to darkened eyes and says that faith has saved this blind man (Lk 18: 42). After regaining his sight, the blind man was able to follow Jesus praising God (Lk 18: 43).
These two texts together with the previous ones shed light on the story of the conversion of Zacchaeus. In this story we find surprising details that are already present in the abovementioned texts:
1. Zacchaeus is a rich man and chief of the Publicans – Lk 19: 2
2. He sought to see Jesus, but was not able because of the crowd – Lk 19: 3
3. He was short – Lk 19: 3
4. The crowd’s judgment that stamps Zacchaeus: a sinner - Lk 19: 7
5. The distribution of goods to the poor – Lk 19: 8
6. Jesus’ proclamation that salvation has come to the house of Zacchaeus – Lk 19: 9.
Zacchaeus, a short man, one who is rich and chief of the Publicans, welcomes the Kingdom of God like a child. He humbles himself and repents of his past and thus finds the salvation that comes from God in Jesus Christ the good Samaritan (Lk 10: 29-37) who comes to us to seek out and save what was lost (Lk 19: 10). This is a theme dear to Luke and we find it in other parts of his Gospel story (e.g.: Lk 15: 11-31).
b) A time for personal reflection:
Place yourself silently before the word of God and reflect on the texts presented in this key to the reading. Ask yourself:
1. What is the connection between these texts?
2. What does salvation mean to you?
3. Zacchaeus, a short man, shows his availability to welcome the Lord by climbing a sycamore tree. His curiosity was rewarded with Jesus’ visit. What do you do to show your availability to welcome the salvation of God?
4. Zacchaeus’ action reminds us of the curiosity of Moses that urges him towards the burning bush. There too Moses found salvation. Do you approach the Lord? Do you feel attracted to Him?
5. Jesus goes to Zacchaeus in his sinfulness and in the house he brings him salvation. How attached are you to sin? Do you allow the Master to come to you, in that dark house?
a) The prayer of the community:
O God, who in your Son have come to seek and save the lost, make us worthy of your call: bring to fulfilment our every wish for good, so that we may know how to welcome you joyfully into our house to share the goods of the earth and of heaven. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
b) A moment of silence:
for personal prayer.
You will reveal the path of life to me,
and at your right hand everlasting pleasures.
(Psalm 15/16: 11)