At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I shall repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“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.”
What I find most interesting is how St. Luke makes specific mention of Zacchaeus’ short stature and how he climbed a tree to see Jesus. He could have just as easily started this story with “Jesus encountered a tax collector named Zacchaeus.” Why the inclusion of the tree climb?
Zacchaeus did not let his short height dissuade him from seeing Jesus. Instead, he did whatever he could because seeing Jesus was important to him. And because of his conviction and conversion, Jesus gives Zacchaeus the gift of salvation. Zacchaeus’ introduction shows us that we all have our limitations and hardships in this life. And yet, we must find a way to “see” Jesus in our lives despite life’s challenges and distractions. When seen through this lens, Zacchaeus’ story sounds more like this popular teaching from Jesus:
“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Might as well add, “Climb and you will be seen.”
I think many times we let our situation dissuade us from truly embracing and practicing out faith. I know I often fall into the thinking of, “well, I’m not a priest,” to justify times when I have not tried hard enough to further my relationship with Jesus. It is so easy to blame work, health, family, or financial difficulties for not praying more often, not going to Mass, not receiving the sacraments, and not being charitable. But as Zacchaeus’ story indicates, those are excuses and not very good ones at that. We need to make our relationship with Jesus a priority and do whatever it takes to receive His grace. Sometimes the road will be easy but other times we need to be like Zacchaeus and think outside the box.
Zacchaeus’ story ties nicely with the Third Joyful Mystery of the rosary — The Nativity. The shepherds in the fields dropped what they were doing to go praise the newborn savior. I previously wrote about how risky it was for shepherds to leave their flock. But they understood the importance of seeing Jesus much like Zacchaeus. They did not allow doubt or concern over their jobs dissuade them from encountering Christ.
When we pray and meditate on the Third Joyful rosary mystery, let us ask God for strength and maybe even a little knowledge to break out of our routines and doubts so that we can truly encounter Jesus. He’s there; always waiting for us and will welcome us into communion with Him. But maybe we just need to get over our worries and maybe put a little more effort to go to Him.