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Mass prep – 3 points/ 30 seconds: Does God like haste?

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Sr. Amata CSFN

Jericho sycamore tree

Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik - published on 10/29/22

While 1000 days are as nothing in his sight, sometimes God is in a hurry ...

The Gospel for this Sunday is Lk 19:1-10

1. The chief of tax collectors in a tree

We are surprised by the image of a wealthy citizen who climbs a sycamore tree seeking to see the wandering Teacher. It makes us wonder what was inside Zacchaeus’ heart, what desires caused him to be unafraid of ridicule in the eyes of the people of Jericho. 

2. Keywords

Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus…

The name Zacchaeus means “innocent, pure.” His neighbors had a different opinion of Zacchaeus. Tax collectors gathered taxes and any benefits owed to the authorities. They had a reputation not only as collaborators with the Roman occupier but also as financial fraudsters. Rabbinic teachings claimed that tax collectors could not be Pharisees precisely because of their questionable morals. 

Jesus saw something in Zacchaeus, perched in a sycamore tree, that his neighbors and acquaintances did not. For Jesus, Zacchaeus is a “son of Abraham” who can receive God’s blessing and mercy. Zacchaeus can be close to God.

…come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”

It seems a little strange that Jesus would invite himself to Zacchaeus’ home. In Jesus’ time, it was an honor to host a famous rabbi in one’s home, and many people sought this out. Jesus says, “I must stay in your house.” In the Greek original, the word I must is “dei,” which is the impersonal form, even more firm and decisive: it is necessary, it must be done.

This word is used in the Gospel to describe God’s urging, a necessity coming from the Holy Spirit. When God meets man, there is no time to waste. Zacchaeus hears that he is to come down from the tree quickly because later today Jesus wants to be with him in his house. Matters of utmost importance cannot wait for tomorrow.

[Zacchaeus] came down quickly and received him with joy […] and said to the Lord,

“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone, I shall repay it four times over.”

Zacchaeus responds to Jesus with similar haste. He welcomes Jesus into his home with great joy. He is willing to give up half of his possessions, far more than the Law prescribed.  The redemption price called for by the Lord in Exodus and Numbers was half a shekel. Likewise, according to Scripture, a person needed to pay back double what he defrauded from any person. Zacchaeus declares a return of four times. He responds to Jesus with joy and generosity.

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

The word “today” tells us about God’s urging, and Jesus’ desire to meet with a person. God’s “today” in the New Testament means the day of salvation. The day of salvation is the eternal today, which applies to Zacchaeus as much as it does to each of us.

3. Today

Jesus tells this parable to me as well. What am I doing to see Him? Would I invite Jesus into my home? What prevents me from receiving the Lord?  Do I believe that Jesus wants to give me His blessing, mercy, and salvation, especially in the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion?

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