Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Luke 19:1-10

Last week’s parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector may still be lingering in our scriptural imaginations. We’ve had our preconceptions challenged a little and we know that the Jesus of Luke’s Gospel champions the outcast. Within the first verse of today’s text we already have a challenge:

‘Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town when a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance: he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man.’ 

Zacchaeus’ name comes from a Hebrew root which means ‘innocent’ or ‘clean’. Can Zacchaeus reclaim the meaning of his name as the story progresses? I’m struck by the fact that he takes the initiative to climb a tree in order to get a better view. There is a certain innocence about this as it may well leave him open to ridicule. In fact, this initiative opens up the possibility of an intimate encounter:

‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.’ 

Zacchaeus is taken off guard and it may be this that opens his heart. I have a sense that some conversion has already occurred as Zacchaeus ‘hurried down and welcomed him joyfully’. His heart is already sufficiently opened to be able to welcome Jesus and to do it joyfully.

Things only get better as Zacchaeus ‘stands his ground’ against the crowd and puts right all that is wrong in his life. In this encounter Jesus returns Zacchaeus to himself with some of the most consoling words in Scripture: ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

Zacchaeus can now stand tall. A new chapter in his life begins. He has reclaimed the meaning of his name: he is innocent and clean.

How can you welcome Christ joyfully this week?