You may not realize it – but the story of Zacchaeus is our story – It’s a story about the Grace of God… but it’s also a story about: YOU and ME.
Everybody pick up a missalette and turn to the Gospel, because we’re going to try to put ourselves into this story.
It’s not so hard to do – "Now a man there named Zacchaeus" – you just - insert your name here. …"who was a" – in this case, "a chief tax collector", which almost makes the next phrase redundant… "and also, a wealthy man". Of course he was rich… tax collectors were all rich – especially the CHIEF tax collector. In order to be theChief, he would have had to prove himself to be the friend of the Romans… he would have extorted money from a lot of people – and that’s WHY he was rich…. And that’s why the people looked down their noses at him…. Well, that’s not the ONLY reason they looked down on him – but also because he was …as the reading tells us… "short".
So – go ahead put yourself – a description of you - into that story. “now a man there name Jerry – a woman named Brenda, who was a farmer – an accountant, a housewife, a coal miner, a therapist, a student… how would you want to be described? For Zacc, it describes him as wealthy and short…What is the main characteristic that describes who you are? Wealthy? Happy? Cantankerous? Party-animal? Holy?
Next comes the most important parts:
Notice it says Zacchaeus was “seeking to see who Jesus was”. Don’t let that line pass you by – it’s probably the most important line in the whole reading. Zacc was looking for Jesus. Here’s the second most important line… why couldn’t Zacc see Jesus? “but he could not see Him because of the crowd”. Why? “because of the crowd”… important points which we need to consider more deeply.
If this story is really about you and me, first we gotta ask: – are WE seeking to see Jesus? If we’re not seeking to see – we won’t see. Like Zacc, if we don’t climb up that sycamore tree, all we’ll be able to see is peoples’ backsides. Second question:what is it that is keeping us from seeing Jesus? Is it the crowd, like it was forZacc? Do the people around us block us from seeing Jesus? Think about that – your friends and family and co-workers… Do they influence us to see the dark side of life instead of the bright side? Do they apply peer pressure on us to avoid climbing the sycamore tree so we can see Jesus? Do they keep dragging us down to their level so they don’t feel back about what THEY are doing?
The other way we might be part of the story is a little more disturbing… are WE part of the crowd in the story? Are we blocking other people from seeing Jesus? How we act in public should scream out that we are Christian – but too often, our actions look so much like everyone else that we actually BLOCK the world’s view of Jesus. Instead of helping others to see Jesus, we block their view with our language, our negativity, our selfishness, and our priorities.
Even here at church, we are here to help each other to CELEBRATE the liturgy –we come here in order to SEE Jesus in His Word, His Body and Blood, and in each other. How I act impacts the people around me. I’m not going to sing along – so the person next to me feels too self-conscious about singing – so they don’t sing – so nobody in that pew sings… so nobody in that SECTION sings… except the few people who are brave enough to climb out on a limb of that sycamore tree. Instead of helping each other to SEE Jesus, we help put each other to sleep. If anybody starts to climb that sycamore tree, we grab their leg and pull them back down.
A Third way that we might be in the story… maybe WE are the ones who are short. We may not be physically short like Zacc, but We ALL have our ‘short-comings!’ We might be short on patience, short on compassion, short on integrity, or short on humility, or short on will-power.
But regardless of how low we are - there’s one more line in the story we need to pay attention to: “When he reached the place where Zacc was – he stopped and called him”. You see that? If we just make an effort to see Jesus – no matter where we are, no matter how short we are – if we climb up just a bit – Jesus will come to THAT place and call to us. “Today – I must stay at your house!” Sound too good to be true?
Actually, this should sound familiar – we say it every time we come to Mass: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” Every time we come to Mass, it’s like we’ve taken one step up the tree – and Jesus offers to comestay with us. Our first response is to recognize that we’re not worthy… “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof”. None of us is worthy – and neither was Zacc. But notice what he did next.
His response was to give away half of his possessions and to make up for anybody he ever cheated. That’s huge – why would he give away all of that stuff? Once Jesus has come under our roof, we have no choice but to change our lives – to set things straight – Jesus came to seek the lost…he came to seek you and me.
That is Amazing Grace.