Wis. 11:22-12:2; 2 Thess. 1:11-2:2; Lk. 19:1-10
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq who succeeded Ghazi was one of the most interesting, and colourful rulers of India. He ruled Delhi from 1325 to 1351. Mohammad Bin Tughlaq shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad, located in the Deccan region of India. He did thisin order to administer the provinces located in the south. Since things did not work out as he had planned, the capital was shifted back to Delhi after two years.
Though Tughlaq was the unchallengeable monarch of his empire, when he realized the mistake in his decision he showed courage to change it.
In today’s Gospel we meet a powerful and wealthy man who declares his willingness and courage to change his ways and amend his life.
Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was passing by, and he decided that he should see Jesus. Being a short man, he knew that he would not be able to see Jesus in the crowd. Hence he had decided to climb a Sycamore tree.
There are three points for our reflection, in the action of Zacchaeus.
First of all, he had a powerful desire to see Jesus. For the last 2000 years Jesus has been the central point in human history. History has been divided into two parts as BC and AD, with Jesus at its centre. Ever since, almost everyone in the world has heard of Jesus. Almost everyone has wished to see Jesus. During the life time Jesus, the Gospels say, that Herod wanted to see Jesus. Jesus was sent to him for his trials. But the presence of Jesus before Herod did not make any difference in him. Hearing about Jesus has not made any difference in millions of people for the last twenty centuries, because there was no deep desire to experience him.
Zacchaeus determined to see Jesus, and would let nothing stop him. For Zacchaeus to mingle with the crowd was a courageous thing to do, as all the people hated tax collectors. Things were not easy for Zacchaeus, but the little man had mustered courage from his determination. His determination opened up a way for him to act.
Secondly, Zacchaeus exhibited a lot of humility, a lot of guts, to climb a tree. He did not stop to think how unbecoming it was for a person of his social status to climb a tree like a boy.
Jesus reached the spot looked up and called him by name. Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "Hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today." [Lk. 19:5] So Jesus' encounter with Zacchaeus was not by chance. Jesus called Zacchaeus in a unique way. Those who were present, knowing that Zacchaeus was a dishonest tax collector, did not agree with Jesus' choice of a place to stay. In their eyes, Zacchaeus, like all tax collectors, was a sinner, and Jesus’ mission was to call sinners to repent.
Today's First Reading from the Book of Wisdom [Wis. 11:22-12:2] speaks of the mercy of God for all the things that He has created. When we compare the size of the universe, the endless space that stretches out beyond our imagination, the earth is like a speck that tips the scale or like morning dew that falls on the ground. [Wis. 11:22] And if the earth is like a speck or morning dew, how would we measure the size of a human being? In truth, God loves all things that exist. He detests none of the things that He has made. For He would not have made anything if He had hated it. [Wis. 11:24]
The earth is full of His creatures. They all look to God to give them their food in due season; when He gives to them, they gather it up. When He opens His hand, they are filled with good things. When He hides His face, they are dismayed; when He takes away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When He sends forth His Spirit, they are created, and He renews the face of the ground. [Ps. 104:24-6, 28-30]
In His infinite mercy towards all, the Lord God overlooks the sins of the people so that all may repent. [Wis. 11:23] He corrects little by little those who trespass, reminding and warning them of the things through which they sin, so that they may be freed from wickedness and put their trust in the Lord. [Wis. 12:2]. Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus too is part of this infinite plan of God.
Thirdly, there was a total change of heart. By the grace of God, Zacchaeus repented of his sins. He said to Jesus, "Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." [Lk. 19:8]
As Zacchaeus waited on the sycamore tree to meet Jesus, we wait at the confessional with a repentant heart. To make our sacrament of confession fruitful, we should be able to experience a change of heart. When Zacchaeus experienced Jesus he declared that he would pay back four times; when we experience Jesus we should also be able to declare that we have changed the way we have been dealing with our family and our brethren.
Then we too will hear the consoling words of Jesus that Zacchaeus heard, "Today salvation has come to this house,”