The Conversion of Zacchaeus

Luke 19: 1-10
2Mac 6:18-31 / Psa 3

Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.
(Luke 19: 10)

Lord, grant me the opportunity
To meet someone seeking You today,
And the wisdom to make him see
Your message in all the things I say.

Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

Reflection

Like the blind man in yesterday’s Gospel, Zacchaeus also had a handicap (he was short) and he also desperately wanted to see. And like the blind man who screamed to get Jesus’ attention, Zacchaeus also succeeded to meet Jesus, albeit unintentionally, by climbing a tree. One was a beggar, and the other a wealthy chief tax collector, but both were determined, and for their perseverance, both were transformed. We also can see a number of lessons in this story:

First of all, like Jesus, we must see others not for what they are, but for what they can be. Jesus never regards anyone as a hopeless sinner who is beyond redemption. We must never allow bias or prejudice to influence our quest to bring others to Christ. Who is a good prospect to invite to our breakfast meetings or bible sessions? Are we afraid to get a negative response? Are we afraid that “he might not fit in with the group?” A true disciple never hesitates. He invites everyone to come to the Lord, everyone willing to know Jesus.

Secondly, love and acceptance can change most people. In all His encounters, Jesus was always open and caring, and so must we. We can fail to make a good example by being too concerned about the superficial rather than the essential. Our Lord showed love and acceptance to the hated, squat Zacchaeus, and a great transformation happened. This was because Jesus did not care what the others would think, even as “the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’” Because of the genuine love that Jesus showed him, Zacchaeus declared to give half of his wealth to the poor. What a great difference with the rich young man who said he wanted to gain eternal life, but was unwilling to part with his wealth when Jesus told him to give it to the poor (Mt.19:16-22).

Finally, our Lord shows us that our mission must be active, not passive. Jesus did not wait for people to come to him; He actively sought out the lost in order to save them. He did not wait for an invitation; He invited Himself in (“I must stay at your house today”). The Holy Spirit gives us insights into people so that we might be bold to help them. By His grace we are able to see a soul that needs salvation. That is why we can set aside social “niceties” to get into the essential purpose of the encounter. Pray that our Lord God will grant us the “divine appointment” to meet someone who is looking for a change in his lifestyle.

Lord God, help us to be bold in proclaiming Your Good News of salvation to others. Take away our prejudices against their perceived sinfulness, so that more of our friends, associates and even enemies may come to know of Jesus’ love. Amen.

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