31st Sunday in Ordinary Time C22
When was the last time you climbed a tree? Children do it all the time; but for adults, not so much.
So what is Zacchaeus doing out on the limb in Jericho? He’s an adult, a wealthy man, who, despite working for the Romans as a tax collector and hated by his countrymen, had some social status. Why would he shimmy up a tree when he could have wormed his way to the front of the crowd to see Jesus? (Aside: When you go to St. Peter’s Square in Rome to see the Pope, you will see short nuns standing just behind the barricades. They will use their sharp elbows to make their way to the front!)
Back to observing Zacchaeus. Being vertically challenged and not brave enough to try to make his way to the roadside because of his fear of receiving sharp elbows or worse from those who despised him, he climbed a tree! I imagine that Jesus chuckled when he noticed him and asked the people around him who he was. And then the improbable happened: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”
Zacchaeus was overjoyed, so much so he promised to give half of his possessions to the poor and if he extorted anything from anyone he would repay him 4 times over, going beyond what was required by the Law of Moses.
Lesson: Near or far, roadside or tree, it doesn’t really matter. Jesus finds us and calls us by name, saying, “today I must stay at your house.”