November 3 : Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time: Zacchaeus’ Transformation

October 29th, 2013




In the figure of Zacchaeus in today’s Gospel, we have a portrait of a lost soul. He is a chief tax collector, a rich man who has apparently gained his living by fraud by profession and so a“sinner” excluded from Israel’s religious life. But Zacchaeus’ faith & humility bring salvation to his house. He expresses his faith in his fervent desire to “see” Jesus, even humbling himself to climb a tree just to watch Him pass by. While those of loftier religious stature react to Jesus with grumbling, Zacchaeus receives Him with joy. Beneath the loving gaze of Christ, the heart of Zacchaeus warms to love of neighbour. From a feeling of isolation, which had led him to enrich himself without caring about what others had to suffer, he moves to an attitude of sharing. In another passage of the Gospel Jesus states that it is very difficult for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 19:23). In the case of Zacchaeus we see that precisely what seems impossible actually happens: "He," St. Jerome comments, "gave away his wealth and immediately replaced it with the wealth of the Kingdom of Heaven" (Homily on Psalm 83:3). And Maximus of Turin adds: "Riches, for the foolish, feed dishonesty, but for the wise they are a help to virtue; for the latter they offer a chance of salvation, for the former they procure a stumbling block and perdition" (Sermon 95). And it is only at this point that the love of God achieves its purpose, and salvation is accomplished: 'Today salvation has come to this house' (v 9)."