The Story of Zacchaeus and Jesus

The Story of Zacchaeus and Jesus

In this short homily for 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Father Hanly looks at the story of Zacchaeus and Jesus.

Readings for Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

  • First Reading: Wisdom 11:22-12:1
  • Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14
  • Second Reading: Second Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
  • Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

Written Homily

The story of Zacchaeus and Jesus: a bit of magic and a lot of love.

It all takes place in Jericho, the oldest city in the world. And here we find Jesus with his disciples just passing through on his final journey to Jerusalem.

The richest man in all of Jericho was named Zacchaeus, the Tax Collector. Because of his occupation he was considered by his own people, the Jews, as an outcast, a traitor, and a collaborator with the Roman invaders.

Banned from the temple, the little man of shameless wealth was pushing his way through the unwelcoming crowd.

Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was passing though the town and he wanted very much to see him. So he ran ahead of the crowd, saw a tall sycamore tree by the road side, climbed up and sat half hidden among the branches.

The little man wanted so much to see Jesus, to see him not just for what he looked like but for what was in his heart. He had heard somewhere that to know the heart of Jesus was to give your own heart possibilities.

And then when he suddenly looked down from his perch in the tree and saw Jesus himself smiling up at him, saying, “Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down, today I must stay in your house,” he couldn’t believe his ears.

To be called by name … to be recognized as a human being, to be treated like a friend. All his anger and shame, his embarrassment at being rejected by his own people, no longer mattered. The desert in his heart had suddenly turned into a garden. For Jesus was calling him by name.

He shimmied down the tree trunk, and with robes flying he ran to Jesus, happy to welcome him into his own house.

But all the others who saw it stayed in place, grumbling to one another, and saying: “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus, filled with joy and happiness, turned to Jesus and said: “Look, half of all my possessions I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.”

Jesus turned to the crowd: “Today salvation has come to this house, because our brother Zacchaeus is also a Son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek out and to save all that was lost.”

And what is the magic and where is the love in the story?

“Seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you.” (Mt 7:7)

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