Soul Food for Young Adult Communities: Nov.3rd 2013: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C:
Reflection written by John Doone, 3rd-level Student. (Ed.)
Tax collectors were not popular in Jesus day. People identified tax collectors with sinners. This career was associated with greed and left the poor struggling further financially. Tax collectors worked for the Roman Empire and were renowned for crippling people with these harsh taxes whilst taking a slice of the cake for themselves. We are told from scripture that Zacchaeus was a small man in stature. With his unpopular title as tax collector and being despised in society, I wonder if Zacchaeus felt very small inside too.
Jesus approaches Zacchaeus, remember; a despised member of the community. Seeing this contact being made between Jesus and a “sinner,” you can imagine the outbursts from the crowd: “But why Jesus are you spending time with such a nasty piece of work?” Well after all didn’t Jesus talk of Justice? “This man is a contributor to the poverty existent in the community, why won’t Jesus put Zacchaeus straight about his corruption!”
In the Gospel of John, speaking about Jesus we hear “he came to his own, but his own did not accept him.” Jesus is revolutionary, reaching out in love to those that aren’t “popular” in society. That takes guts! Just like in today’s society, we too find it difficult to love the 21st century Zacchaeus in the form of city bankers with their big bonuses every year. Instead of pointing the finger or condemning these bankers for their corruption, is it possible that we too can change the hardened of hearts by reaching out in friendship?
The message of “treat others as you would like to be treated yourself,” poses great difficulty to me especially. And maybe you too at times find it difficult to understand the relationship Jesus wants with us. Because God’s Love is unconditional we find ourselves struggling with it at times maybe saying – am I worthy of such Love? Or “but surely Jimmy down the road is a much better man than me; therefore deserving more of this special relationship Jesus offers!”
Zach must have been very well off, with a career and income like his! Yet with all this wealth and stature, he still climbed the tree to see Jesus. Why?
This would suggest Zacchaeus was in the search for something his life wasn’t providing.
Answers that would oppose the idea that only possessions brought happiness and contentment. Zach made a huge effort climbing the sycamore tree that day, and it did not go unnoticed by Jesus. You see it was his effort that impressed Jesus, not that he was a “perfect” man and had all the answers to all the questions life throws at us – his effort (good intentions)! Sometimes we as Christians trying to follow the path are led off track – this is of no interest to Jesus, he wants a friendship based on respect. And in order to gain this friendship all we need to do is ask. As in Matthew we hear Jesus reminding us “”Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Not only was it an effort for Zacchaeus to climb the tree, but metaphorically it must have been hard for him to jump down too! When Jesus asked him to come down from the tree and entertain him in his house, Zacchaeus must have been frightened at first – in jumping down from the tree he must acknowledge his ways and amend them. That’s a big jump! However what made it easy for Zacchaeus was the love Jesus witnessed to him. Jesus it
seems, identified immediately with Zacchaeus, almost as though their friendship that had just been initiated at the tree lasted long before their first encounter with one another. It is this undeserved love and acceptance that makes Zacchaeus move to a new way of living – living a full and happy life for God and his neighbour. Our lesson from this story is an encounter with Christ leads to transformation.
Can you share this with one or two friends. Who are all the people in the story? What is the tension? Who am I in the story? Am I different characters at the same time? What is it saying to us? Can we share this with others? Your comments are welcome!
For ‘Soul Food for Hungry Adult Communities’, on this same Gospel, click here.