NOVEMBER 15, 2005- AWHUM: LUKE: 19: 1-10

"Zacchaeus, come down quickly. I mean to stay at your house today." It was but an hour or so after Jesus restored sight to the blind man that, as he continued on his way to Jericho he noticed a short, eager man perched on the branch of a tree along the roadside. Immediately, he realized that the reason this person had climbed up so as to see him pass by was that he had a deep feeling for what the Lord represented. Innocence, honesty, benevolence and personal authority that had just expressed itself in a striking healing. The picture we are given of Zacchaeus is that he was a man of shrewd, direct manner who understood the hard ways of the financial world.

Although he had engaged in the extortionist practices involved in his profession at the time, he was not truly content with his life. Some part of his mind could not find contentment and be at rest with mere wealth. He must have had some obscure desire for a return to the more innocent life he had learned and experienced as a young Jew. Then he heard about the young Rabbi from Galilee who was coming to Jericho, Zacchaeus’ home town. Somehow he obscurely felt this prophet stood for the kind of life that would respond to his unhappy state. Just to catch a glimpse of him seemed to offer some relief from his nagging sense of guilt, some hope of a better, happier way. He put aside all sense of dignity and, like a young boy, clambered up that sycamore tree with no concern for what the neighbors might think.

A mere glance revealed some such figure to the Lord as he passed by that tree and saw the excitement of his admirer. All it took for his release from the bondage of his ill-gotten wealth and the guilt that tormented his soul was a short word from the Lord, a word of trusting friendliness: "Zacchaeus, come down quickly. I mean to stay at your house today." Our Lord soon realized that this man was considered an outcast by the people for they complained that he was associating with a notorious sinner. No matter, here was a child of Abraham who needed what only Jesus could give: a loving, understanding forgiveness. A recognition of all the generosity latent in the soul of this tough man of the world was all that Zacchaeus needed from Jesus to regain the peace of recovered innocence. Contact with Jesus brings new life, desire fulfilled and hope of even greater happiness to come.

When Luke told this story he meant it to be a message to all whm like this tax collector stand in need of a new beginning, a rebirth to a freshness of life that he alone has the power to impart. The Lord has come to serve, to search out and save what was lost. He seeks only to find a heart truly desirous of the kind of gift he brings with him wherever he is welcomed. The loving knowledge of his heavenly Father and the assurance of a surpassing love that makes holy that which was defiled. This is the love that we celebrate in our Eucharist here today. May we open our heart to it and follow wherever it leads until we meet with its source in the Kingdom of God our Father.


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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