Sunday of Zachaeus
When we pray, it is not to recharge our batteries for the business of getting back to the concerns of daily life, but rather to be transformed by our heavenly Father so that the myths and fictions of our life might fall like broken shackles from our wrists.
In his own way and by his own method, Zachaeus the tax collector has heard so much about our Lord that he is eager to see for himself. In his activity he puts his ardent prayer into practice. He not only needs, but desires an encounter with the Miracle Worker from Bethlehem.
His circumstances tell him to go and climb a tree so that he might see. He will do whatever is necessary. He has heard about the Saviour so now he wants to meet him, to experience him. He is an indictment of so many in life today who have heard about the Lord, many of our relatives, even our friends and neighbors, our loved ones, our husbands, our wives, our children who hear, who know, but similar to the deaf and dumb, do absolutely nothing because of their very limiting approach and insight.
Zachaeus had no family member, had no relative of whom we are aware to share with him a treasured glimpse of salvation in Christ. He had no one to provide an example, to offer a salutary suggestion, to prod and encourage. He could not judge how much good the values of Christ were in the lives of his loved ones. He could not see a before and after. He was literally dependent on the mercy and charity of the Lord to approach him.
So we see Isaiah in the Old Covenant describing the circumstances of today's event. The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom Isaiah 35: 1.
The desert where prayer flourishes is the desert of our own hearts barren of all the slogans that we have been led to believe to be our very identity and salvation. Zachaeus recognizes that prayer is death to the very identity that does not come from God. So we see that prayer frees us and restores us to ourselves. In prayer we learn how to hate the father and mother who through the cult of myth and symbol represent the world standing before us as the sole source of our identity. Zachaeus dealt daily with the
Jewish people as he collected their taxes. He knew they considered themselves
privileged Chosen People, but lived more like an isolated and afflicted group. What they insisted should be their identity was in fact ignored by them. They wanted the Roman occupiers to respect their position as chosen by God, but they never challenged themselves to live like divinely identified and blessed people.
So the cursed and vilified and hated tax collector prays even more. He learns who is his real father and mother, his actual brother and sister from the Lord: Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me Matthew 12: 50. Zachaeus sees and recognizes from what he has heard a plan hidden in God's grace and only incompletely manifested to man. He sees it is Jesus who introduces his reign into human history and intangibly brings it to fruition among men through his power and the willingness of sinful man to believe and not attempt to exist on his own. It will be perfected in God's good time, not by the judgment or understanding of any human being. This theme encourages adherence to the teaching of our Lord despite hardships and it places the reign proclaimed by Jesus above all the things in human existence which man holds dear. Zachaeus sees that it is Christ who is most important in life, not the tax payers, not fellow citizens, not those in authority who grant him the right to collect taxes and enrich himself, and certainly not even his earthly family who seemingly loves and supports him.
In looking up into the leaves and branches of the sycamore tree and beholding Zachaeus, our Lord shows He is at the very center of the mystery of the reign of God among us and so He must be recognized as first, above ourselves, above our loved ones and certainly above all the obligations and privileges we enjoy in this life. The purpose of our Lord's encounter today is to pattern the life of the Christian community after his own model. Service to the Lord must be placed above all gain, above all obligations and expectations. If we enjoy divine favor as communicants of the community of faith, His Body and Bride, then we must respond to his overtures in that self same capacity and understanding. We must act and live like favor-filled and favor-blessed people.
If we are recalcitrant, we are to be cut off from the faith community and when we repent, we may be reinstated because of the limitless forgiveness with the believing community which is a primary witness our Lord makes today. Even a hated one, even a despised one, even Zachaeus can be forgiven and his sins forgotten if he repents. It is in prayer, in repentance that we learn to love our father and mother and our brother with a pure heart, that they along with us share the fullness and totality of faith response to Christ as our Saviour.
So today we see our Lord is prepared because of his divine mission to go where He is needed and wanted. It is not isolated coincidence Zachaeus and Jesus meet. Today's encounter drives us, inspires us, encourages us to pray the Lord of the harvest. Just as Jesus is eager to do what is vital and necessary for man's salvation, we too, individually, must be eager to respond in his way and by his method to those in our family, in our
neighborhood, in our very homes as He does so tenderly today with Zachaeus. He come+ to those who need him, who want him, who desire salvation. He comes, He sees, He feels their need and He prays. The divine mission and example of our Lord drives us and impels us to do likewise.
And if we take seriously our vocation, the vocation that transcends all other callings and vocations and expectations we have in time and in the world, the results will be the same. Ours will be enjoying the privilege of doing as the Lord does because we think as the Lord does and we love after the example of the Lord. To all those in our immediate circle, in our families not already touched by the finger of God, to those who voluntarily separate themselves from the source of life, let us greet them positively as does the Lord looking directly into the eye of Zachaeus with all seriousness, also speaks to his heart and soul compellingly: Zachaeus, hurry down. I mean to stay at your house today Matthew 19: 5. Permit your loved ones to hear Today salvation has come to this house, for this is what it means to be a son of Abraham. The Son of Man has come to search out and to save what was lost Matthew 19:9, 10.