31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – C
What happens when the hospitality of man meets the hospitality of God? What happens when God’s super-magnanimity is reciprocated with man’s super-generosity? There is a genuine conversion. There is an explosion of grace! We see this in the encounter between Jesus and Zaccheus.
Zaccheus was not just an ordinary publican, being a chief tax collector he was in charge of collecting taxes from a group of publicans in a certain region. Because of this he was very rich and well known in the community but still considered a public sinner. In spite of all his great success, Zaccheus must be a very lonely and unhappy man, being a traitor against the nation, unwanted and rejected by the society. These are all represented by his small physical stature. He could have heard about Jesus who defended the outcast, performed miracles on behalf of those with needy background. Knowing about Jesus, he had a growing sense of curiosity who this man was could be. His opportune moment came when Jesus passed through Jericho. To make up for his small stature, he climbed a sycamore tree where Jesus was passing through. No one with his position in the society would ever do that so he could have been ridicule by the crowd. His humiliation became the means of his salvation; the sycamore tree symbolized the humility of Zaccheus which lifted him up above all the rest. His ridiculous but humiliating act gave him a more vantage point to see Jesus. While the crowd mocked him, he caught the attention of Jesus. Because of his sycamore tree, Zaccheus was almost a giant before Jesus. While the people looked down on Zaccheus, Jesus looked up to him. Now Jesus after finding a lost sheep in Zaccheus, offered him the extraordinary hospitality of God. It was a moment of mercy. A moment of grace which Zaccheus could not afford to miss. When people would go to the temple to encounter God, now it was the living God who would go to the humble house of Zaccheus. When Zaccheus received Jesus in his house, all the people who saw it grumbled “He has gone to the house of a sinner as a guest.” This time it was not just the Pharisees but all were unforgiving to the man who was about to receive redemption. Now it was Zaccheus’ turn to reciprocate Jesus’ magnanimity: “The half of my good I will give to the poor (charity) and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much (justice).” Zaccheus did not just receive Jesus in his house, he had to clean up his house with his mess, that is the injustice done against his fellowmen. A genuine conversion like that of Zaccheus’ is expressed in charity and justice to others. Responding to the super-generosity of Zaccheus, Jesus proclaimed “Salvation has come to this house today, for this man is also a true son of Abraham.” Jesus brought back Zaccheus’ dignity which was lost by his sinful past.
When the super-generosity of man meets up with the super-magnanimity of God, there is an overflow of charity that leads to justice and super-abundance of grace. When man’s hospitality responds to the hospitality of God, salvation becomes a reality here and now. When we humble ourselves in our desire to encounter God, we do not have to look for Him somewhere else because He comes to us. A true encounter with God does not end with us being in the presence of the Divine but rather it overflows in our acts of charity towards those who have less in life so that they will also encounter God through us…..
Encountering Jesus was indeed Zaccheus’ greatest success but his charity and justice to others was his the key to his salvation.