He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way. When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.
All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner.” Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” Then Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Zacchaeus’s encounter with Jesus resonates deeply in our world where being at the “top” and the accumulation of wealth and prestige are given preference. Curious about Jesus, Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector despised by his fellow Jews, climbs to the top of the tree to see him better.
How often do we also “climb up” to “see” better? Not only do we often seek wealth, honor and prestige, but we also prop ourselves up by them. We justify this by saying that they are helpful tools to do good. Regardless, why do we “climb up,” if Jesus’ invitation is to “come down”?
Like Zacchaeus, Jesus calls us by name. To surrender our self-love and self-interest. To be in solidarity with others in the gritty reality of our world.
Will I give up my wealth, honor and pride to join Jesus in making our world more humane and just? How might Jesus be calling me, with my imperfections and limitations, to participate in his redeeming and liberating mission?
—Matt Ippel, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic in the Midwest Province studying philosophy at the Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya in Lima, Peru.
You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God.