(Adults, you could begin by reading the scripture passage to your child. Alternatively, read the intro to the reflection, then the scripture, then continue with the reflection.)
Last week we listened to Jesus tell a parable about a tax collector. This week Jesus meets a real, live tax collector in person. His name is Zacchaeus.
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.
St. Luke tells us that Zacchaeus is a tax collector and rich so we know that probably he has been dishonest, probably he has been collecting more money from his neighbours than he was supposed to, probably he has been keeping that extra money for himself. Has he been making good choices? Has he been building the Kingdom of God? We can guess that he has not. We can guess that he is a sinner.
Zacchaeus was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.
Even though Zacchaeus is a sinner, even though he has been making bad choices, even though he has not been building the Kingdom of God, Zacchaeus really wants to see Jesus. We can wonder, then—who put that desire in his heart?
Zacchaeus ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because Jesus 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.”
Zacchaeus gets even more than he wanted! Jesus sees him, Jesus knows him, Jesus calls out to him saying that he must stay at Zacchaeus' house.
He must stay?
Remember the very first line of the gospel reading?
Jesus was passing through Jericho. He was not planning to stop.
But when Jesus sees Zacchaeus up in that tree, he changes his plans.
Jesus changes his plans for Zacchaeus, the sinner.
Now it is necessary, Jesus says, that he remain in Jericho at Zacchaeus' home!
If we say that Jesus stays with Zacchaeus even though he is a sinner, would that be correct?
No. Jesus says,
the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.
Jesus comes to save the lost. Jesus stays with Zacchaeus because he is a sinner. That is what God does.
We get lost when we choose the wrong way. Zacchaeus has been lost because he has chosen the wrong way. He has made poor choices.
Like Zacchaeus, we all make poor choices sometimes. Poor choices are different from accidents or mistakes. Each one of us—sometimes—chooses to do the wrong thing.
And we do not feel very good about that.
We know what is right. We know Jesus says, "do good to those who hate you." We know that if everybody does good to those who hate, there would be a lot less hate. There might even be love. But when someone is really not very nice, how good it feels—for a little while anyway—to say or do something mean. Or when we get really, really angry, we say or do something nasty even to the people we love.
These choices make us feel really rotten.
These choices make us feel like we really are not very good.
These choices make us think that Jesus—if he were here—would not really want to spend time with us.
And we do not feel very good about that either.
But what is the good news here?
I must stay.
He says this to Zacchaeus. He says this to each one of us.
This tells us two things:
1) Jesus is already here with us.
2) Jesus wants to stay here with us.
This is good news indeed.
With Zacchaeus, we welcome Jesus with joy!