Zacchaeus, Come Down Quickly

(November 3, 2019)

Bottom line: In Zacchaeus we see the key steps of discipleship.

You might remember in June when we heard Jesus was "resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem." The literal Greek says, "he set his face to Jerusalem". We've been on a five month road trip with Jesus: teaching, healing, driving out demons and, above all, making disciples.

In today's Gospel Jesus is passing through Jericho - a crossroads town about 17 miles northeast of Jerusalem. He meets a man who will sum up what it means to become a disciple.

He's a little man named Zacchaeus - the chief tax collector of that bustling town. As you can imagine, Zacchaeus would be reluctant to go out into a crowd. Everyone scorns and judges him. Still, he wants to see Jesus. So he climbs a sycamore - a kind of fig tree with low branches. St. Augustine speculates that the tree has a reference to the cross - the tree Jesus would climb to bring salvation.

At any rate, from the sycamore tree Zacchaeus looks down on the crowd and on Jesus himself. Zacchaeus has spent his life looking down on others. He's richer than all of them.

Jesus sees him and says, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly." To meet Jesus we must come down. Like the Shaker hymn, "'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free 'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be"

When Zacchaeus comes down, Jesus does something unexpected, even shocking. "Today," Jesus says, "I must stay a your house." When we meet Jesus, when we accept him into our lives, he enters our home. Not the front yard, not the porch, but he enters our home. If Sister Carmen or I - or someone who represents the parish - blesses a home, we go into every room. Jesus wants to protect and govern every aspect of our lives.

That rule includes our possessions: my iPhone, my computer, my refrigerator, my car. Zacchaeus says, "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."

On our journey to Jerusalem money has come up a number of times, for example: the parables of the rich fool, the dishonest steward, Lazarus and the rich man. Even though Jesus himself had no place to lay his head and his disciples carried no money bags, still Jesus had a lot to say about money. He warns money can easily take the place of God. "You cannot serve God and mammon." After encountering Jesus, Zacchaeus stops putting money first. He puts God first.

In Zacchaeus we see the key steps of discipleship: 1) Curiosity - he wants to see Jesus. 2) Humility - "come down quickly" 3) Openness - he allows Jesus to enter his home, every aspect of his life. 4) Service: He no longer serves money, but uses money to serve God.

With Zacchaeus we circle back to prayer - intimacy with God in Jesus: Thank, Ask, Repent and Praise. Before meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus lived in isolation - alienated from God and from his own people. Like Zacchaeus we welcome God into lives - by prayer, especially the Mass. And Jesus says, "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."


Homily Stewards of Mercy Week 1: Zacchaeus (Audio homily for 31th Sunday, Year C 2016)

How to Pray, Part Four (Audio homily for 31st Sunday, Year C 2013)

Spanish Version

From Archives (Homilies for Thirtieth Sunday, Year C):

2016: Stewards of Mercy Week 1: Zacchaeus
2013: How to Pray, Part Four: Self-Emptying
2010: Salvation
2007: A Little Man With a Lot to Teach Us
2004: Astonished Gratitude
2001: An Ocean of Mercy

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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Fr. Frank Schuster
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Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

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