In the Gospel we have the meeting between Jesus and Zacchaeus, an encounter by which the latter rediscovers his identity, as son of Abraham; he’s more than just a corrupt tax collector. In Zacchaeus we discover how God looks at us despite our sinfulness and we discover also mission: to look at others as God looks at us.
Bible readings Wisdom 11: 22—12 2 Psalm 145: 1–2, 8–11, 13–14 2 Thessalonica 1: 11—2 2 Luke 19: 1–10
Story of a tax collector
We are familiar with the story of Zacchaeus the short tax collector who, desiring to see Jesus, climbs a tree in order to have a glance at him. What does this story say about God, about our identity and about our mission as Christians?
But who’s this tax collector? He works to collect tax for the detested colonial, Roman government. Besides, he takes advantage of the oppressive system to make himself rich by demanding people to pay more than is required. It’s for that he’s not only hated but he’s also considered as public sinner. That explains the scandal it causes when Jesus, a respectable Jew, makes himself a guest of Zacchaeus. Apparently, People around see in him nothing more than a collaborator with enemies and an immoral person. But is that all?
“He too is a son of Abraham”
Jesus remarks: “He too is a son of Abraham” which means that this hated tax collector, and a cheat, is also one of the chosen people, and thus, equally called to inherit the kingdom of heaven. That’s the good news Jesus announces to him, leading to a new self-awareness. Indeed, that is salvation for Zacchaeus who comes to realise that his life is not just about the career and accumulating wealth but finding his place among his fellow chosen people. It’s dawn for Zacchaeus that leads to a new page in his life. In Zacchaeus we have a mirror of our life before God.
Jesus looks at Zacchaeus the way God looks at us
The first reading affirms God’s attitude toward his creation. Though he’s all powerful, and that everything he has created appears to be nothing before him, yet he keeps it in high esteem:
“In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales, like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground. Yet you are merciful to all… Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what made in abhorrence, for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it…. You spare all things because all things are yours… you correct those who offend, you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you Lord.”
Here we can appreciate how God looks at us, not with an eye of judgment but of mercy and love for we are his children. And despite whatever image we may have painted ourselves, out of our lifestyle, he sees beyond our mess.
Having benefited from God’s merciful and loving attitude towards us, we are inspired in the way we interact with others. No matter the notoriety that they may have built for themselves, they nonetheless remain beloved sons and daughter of God. This is not to minimise sin but simply to affirm that sin does not obliterate our dignity. Indeed, salvation is coming to the awareness of who we are in God.
Besides, through Zacchaeus we come to appreciate that even those who may have a bad name in our society they probably carry deep within them noble yearnings. It’s thus our vocation as Christians to welcome and accompany such persons without judging them. The experience of being loved and accepted, as they are, can lead them to conversion. So, in Zacchaeus we see how merciful and loving God is towards us, sinners. Naturally, we are also encouraged to be loving and forgiving to the other Zacchaeus around us.
So, I thank you God, for you love all that you have created; you love me and you give me the opportunity to come back to my sense and realise my real identity as your beloved child destined to enter they joy of heaven.
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