|Father Perry D. Leiker, pastor|
Quote of the Week: “What we love we shall grow to resemble.” — St. Bernard of Clairvaux.
Today’s Gospel is a simple story involving a man, a tree, and love and hate.
Ultimately, love wins. It always does, because it gives — not takes — life.
Zacchaeus is placed at the center of this story between love and hate.
The townspeople did indeed hate him — and with good reason: He worked for the enemy collecting their taxes; he charged them more than he should have. He got rich off them.
He had an army of Romans to back him, since he was working for Rome. Even his physical details gave them opportunity to display their hatred for him.
When Zacchaeus tried to move up to the front of the crowd to see Jesus when he passed by, they blocked him and prevented him from doing so. Since he couldn’t see over them, the only thing left was to climb a tree. But just as much as the townspeople hated Zacchaeus, Jesus loved him.
He loved him not because he did anything to earn it. Jesus loved and offered love to Zacchaeus because he knew he needed it, believed in the power of love to help and save, and Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach others about love.
When Jesus arrived at Zacchaeus’ tree, he looked up, called for him to come down, and loved him by inviting himself to his home — an act of entering into intimacy and hospitality.
It worked immediately.
The town displayed more hate, but Zacchaeus countered it with love. He had already been affected; loved by Jesus, he changed on the spot. He loved Jesus back by publicly giving a sign of repentance (metanoia) and thereby saving face for Jesus.
Jesus was being indicted for entering the house of a sinner. But the sinner declared not just a little change; he declared a total change of heart.
Zacchaeus’ willingness to give a portion of his wealth to the poor (20 percent) would have been considered generous by any standard. He went way beyond — he publicly declared that he would give half of all his wealth to the poor.
And he also promised to pay back those he defrauded four times what they lost.
This was total conversion!
Then in one sweeping statement, Jesus restored wholeness and welcomed back Zacchaeus. He placed him on equal ground with everyone else who was there. He revealed the real meaning of community: not rejecting and condemning what is lost but seeking it out and welcoming it home.
"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."
With whom do we wish to be identified: the town and hate, or Jesus and love?
Today’s Gospel is a simple story involving a man, a tree, and love and hate, but the results are miraculous.
Father Perry D. Leiker is pastor of St. Bernard Church. Reach him at (323) 255-6142, Ext. 112; email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Father Perry on Twitter: @MrDeano76.