Sunday Reflections - Zaccheus the tax collector

Reaching out to those who are lost

Last Sunday’s(31.10.10) Gospel reading (Luke 19:1-10) related a very wonderful story about a man named Zacchaeus who was a tax collector. Tax collectors in days of Jesus were considered sinners as they were seen to be accumulating wealth by unscrupulous means at the expense of the poor.

Jesus did something that was right but unacceptable to the people by going to stay with Zacchaeus whom they considered a sinner. They were angry with Jesus for accommodating a sinner. This unprecedented and controversial action of Jesus brought about the repentance of Zacchaeus,who was willing to give up all his wealth and seek forgiveness from all those whom he had cheated.

Jesus’ reply to him that he had come to “seek and to save what had been lost” was very apt and relevant to all of us today. We too are asked by Jesus to seek and reach out to those who have gone astray.

Our PP, Fr.Victor Louis nicely summarized the meaning of this passage when he emphasized two main points:

1.Jesus continues to knock on our doors. It is entirely up to us to decide whether to open or not as the doors are locked from inside

2.Every person however bad he/she may seem to be have something good in them and it is up to us to seek that goodness in them

Yes, we are all sinners like Zaccheus and Jesus continues to knock on our doors and the onus is on us to open them to him. The problem is often we wait for Jesus to come in person to knock our doors like He did to Zaccheus, not realizing he comes in disguise whom we refuse to acknowledge. He comes in the form of our spouse, children, parents, priests, the lonely, the sick and dying, the poor and despised. In fact he comes in each and everyone we meet in our lives, good and bad alike.

The second point is very relevant to our lives where we have to relate with fellow humans in every aspect day in and day out. Everyone has something good however bad he/she may appear to be. It is up to us to knock on their doors like Jesus did to Zaccheus to touch on their goodness to bring about his/her repentance. It is meaningless to read about the greatness of Jesus and say “praise to you Lord Jesus Christ” but refuse to emulate him in our own lives.

Another inspiring action of Jesus was his courage to do something right although that was against the norms and condemned by the people – visiting Zaccheus, a sinner. Very often we too meet with such challenges in our lives but we are afraid to take a stand to defend the truth. We are afraid of what others will think of us; label us as rebels, trouble makers and power crazy. We see people suffering from all sorts of miseries; do we have the courage and the will to reach out to them? We see injustice in our midst; do we have the courage to stand up against such injustice especially when it is inflicted on the helpless by those in power?

Many of us are ever willing to offer prayers for those in need hoping that God will send someone else to help them out, not realizing that He wants us to knock on the doors of those around us. Yes, Jesus wants us to get out of our own zones of comfort and reach out to Him in those around us. The question is how many of us are willing to accept His challenge?


The following is the Gospel reading for Sunday 31.10.10

Luke 19: 1-10

And having entered, he walked through Jericho. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. And he was the leader of the tax collectors, and he was wealthy. And he sought to see Jesus, to see who he was. But he was unable to do so, because of the crowd, for he was small in stature. And running ahead, he climbed up a sycamore tree, so that he might see him. For he was to pass near there.

And when he had arrived at the place, Jesus looked up and saw him, and he said to him: “Zacchaeus, hurry down. For today, I should lodge in your house.” And hurrying, he came down, and he received him joyfully.

And when they all saw this, they murmured, saying that he had turned aside to a sinful man.
But Zacchaeus, standing still, said to the Lord: “Behold, Lord, one half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have cheated anyone in any matter, I will repay him fourfold.”

Jesus said to him: “Today, salvation has come to this house; because of this, he too is a son of Abraham.
For the Son of man has come to seek and to save what had been lost.”

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