Seeking the Lord: The Story of Zacchaeus
November 15th Readings Reflection: Tuesday of the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time
At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”
Today’s Gospel is a beautiful lesson on the importance of actively seeking God in our lives. Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector who “was seeking to see who Jesus was.” Finding that the crowd blocked his sight, Zacchaeus climbed a tree in order to see Jesus from above the crowd. When Jesus passed by the tree where Zacchaeus was, He called the tax collector down, saying that “today I must stay at your house.” On that very spot, Zacchaeus promised to give away half of his possessions to the poor, adding, “[I]f I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”
“[T]he Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” Jesus sought Zacchaeus, who was known as a sinner among the Jews because he was a tax collector, and Zacchaeus, in turn, sought to know Jesus. When Zacchaeus could not see Jesus over the crowd, he did not give up, but instead climbed a tree so that he could see. When he did see Jesus, he accepted the grace that Christ offered and fully repented of his past sinfulness.
Part of the beauty of Sacred Scripture is that each passage contains many levels of meaning, making it relevant for every single person’s life. What is the “crowd” in our lives that keeps us from seeing Jesus? We all have one, but it’s different for each person. Once we recognize what it is in our lives that prevents us from fully seeing Jesus, we can then climb the “tree” of grace that God offers, which enables us to rise above all the distractions in our lives so that we can truly see Him.
I immediately think of the Holy Eucharist when I imagine seeing Jesus. As Catholics, we believe that the Sacred Host truly is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ Himself; when we gaze upon that Host, we gaze upon Our Blessed Saviour. This then makes the “tree” very concrete in our lives: it is the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, through which we receive the restoration of God’s grace in our souls (Confession) and the Body and Blood of Christ Himself (Holy Eucharist).
The graces that we receive through the Sacraments should then lead us to a complete and radical repentance, like Zacchaeus. While we may have never extorted others, we all have our own deeply-rooted sins that we must work to uproot, with the help of God’s grace. May Zacchaeus’ example serve to inspire and direct us in our own spiritual lives, so that Jesus may reside forever in our souls through sanctifying grace.