WelCom November 2019
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Luke 19:1-10
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town, 2 and suddenly a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. 3 He kept trying to see who Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; 4 so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today.’ 6 And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully.
7 They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house,’ they said. 8 But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’
9 And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’
Up and down a tree
A reflection on Luke 19:1-10
Elizabeth Julian rsm
He is Zacchaeus a short, wealthy, chief tax collector and probably despised by many because of his occupation — a collaborator with the Romans. Wanting desperately to see Jesus he runs (unseemly behaviour for an important, powerful man) and climbs a sycamore tree. A sycamore fig tree has big branches and big leaves enabling him to hide. What prompted him to make himself look so ridiculous? Perhaps safety concerns — a short, despised man could easily have been attacked in a crowd. Imagine his surprise when Jesus tells him, over the heads of the crowd, to come down because he wants to come to his house.
Zacchaeus rushes down, welcoming Jesus with joy ‒ similar to other Lukan characters, for example Martha. He stands his ground before the complaining crowd, defending himself by saying that he gives half his possessions to the poor (in the Greek language ‒ the original language of the New Testament ‒ the verb is present tense suggesting an ongoing action).
Zacchaeus’ behaviour contrasts with that of the rich ruler unable to sell what he owns and give to the poor (Lk 18:22). Furthermore, Zacchaeus promises to repay anyone he may have cheated, four times over! Imagine what a difference that could make if we all stood up like Zacchaeus and took that attitude towards the environment. We know we have definitely cheated and exploited our common home making it a look ‘like an immense pile of filth’ (LS#21). What would our planet look like if, instead of making these ‘R’ choices below once a day, or a week, or a month, or a year, we made them four times a day, or a week, or a month, or a year?
- Refuse: choose not to generate waste in the first place;
- Reduce: make decisions that decrease the amount of waste produced;
- Reuse/repair: expand the shelf-lives of products;
- Replace:next time consider the recycled and green option;
- Recycle: reclaim the raw materials.
Jesus tells Zacchaeus, ‘Today salvation has come to this house’ because he too is ‘a son of Abraham’, that is, an heir to God’s promises in the Old Testament. Imagine if Jesus could say, because of our actions on behalf of our common home, ‘Today salvation has come to this planet’.
New Testament scholar Ken Bailey points out that Jesus came (Bethlehem and the incarnation) to seek and to save (Jerusalem and the cross). In the story of Zacchaeus both are brought together.