Luke 19: 1-10
1 As Jesus entered the city of Jericho, he began to go through it. 2 Now there was a certain man named Zacchaeus, who was chief of customs officers, and he was rich. 3 He sought to know who Jesus was, but he could not because of the crowd and his small size. 4 Then running before him, he went up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he had to pass by. 5 And when he came to the place, Jesus lifted up his eyes and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry down, for today I must dwell in your house". 6 And he hasted down, and welcomed him with joy. 7 While watching the scene, everyone grumbled, saying, "He went to lodge with a man who lives in sin". 8 Standing, Zacchaeus said to the Lord, "Here is half of my fortune, Lord, I give it to the poor, and if I have extorted someone, I repay the quadruple". 9 Then Jesus said about him, "Today this family experienced liberation, because Zacchaeus also is a son of Abraham. 10 In fact, the new Adam came to seek and liberate what was lost. "
What can bring us down from our comfort zone?
Gospel commentary - Homily
Tensions are wreaking havoc in Canadian politics: Provinces are protesting because natural resources are included in the calculation of each one's contribution to wealth sharing. Not long ago, during the G8 rich countries' meeting, pressure groups demonstrated loudly and expressed their gloominess in front of world's injustices. At the local level, committed groups are shouting on the streets, "Tax the rich". In this search for a better world, is not this a familiar refrain?
Let's try a thought experience. Let's replace the G8, or the rich provinces or the rich people by Zacchaeus. We know the story. Jesus looks up and says, "Zacchaeus, hurry down, because today I have to stay in your house, I want to live communion with you, I love you". And Zacchaeus distributes half of his fortune to the poor without being asked anything, and promises repayment with a 400% interest rate for any injustice he may have committed. What is the best approach to the rich today: that of Jesus or that of our contemporaries? But, it will be said, the method of Jesus is impracticable and unique to this Son of God. Really?
When we look at our whole life, can we find such a moment when someone has looked at us to say, "I want to stay with you, I take pleasure in your presence, I choose you, I love you" ? If we did experience it, what happened next? Certainly, a complete reversal of our world. What was important before was no more. What was unimportant before, now became important. At this moment, our personal value no longer comes from things external to us, but from this very relationship that we live. Is not it normal for two people who love each other to share everything, especially all their financial assets? A loving heart overflows with joy and generosity. Is not this what Zacchaeus is living?
But how do we relate to Zacchaeus? Do not say, "Ah! If only I had been there in Jericho at that time!" The Evangelist Luke does not want to talk about the past, but about our present, so much so that he uses the expression Lord to speak about Jesus, an expression used by Christians in prayer. Through the loving gaze that we can experience, do not we see the same look that was put on Zacchaeus, if we really have faith? The "I must stay in your home today" is for each of us.
But why are Zacchaeus so rare today? It seems to me that the decision to let us be loved is the hardest one. When the Gospel says, "Zacchaeus hastened down and welcomed Jesus with joy," it says that Zacchaeus has decided to let himself be loved. And this is where we sometimes choke. What is our first reaction when someone shows interest towards ourself? Spontaneously, we are looking at things we've been successful at: we're looking for our value outside of us. Yet the crowd said about Zacchaeus, "This Jesus went to lodge with a man who lives in sin". Zacchaeus can not look at what he has accomplished. To let oneself be loved is to accept the value of that relationship itself, forgetting the mistakes of the past or its own achievements.
But what does Zacchaeus's sentence mean for us: "Here is half of my fortune, I give it ..."? What is our fortune? Not necessarily money. It's our time, our health, our energy, our culture, our knowledge, our skills, our expertise, our know-how, our experience, our loving heart, our tenderness, our understanding, our sensitivity, in short everything that makes of us a particular being. To accept to be loved is to accept the value of that relationship, and not of what makes us special. This is what Zacchaeus experienced.
Are we far from the G8 or the Canadian provinces that are rich with their natural resources or those rich that should be taxed? Not at all. These are the large-scale reflection of what we are fundamentally. Nothing will change in this search for a better world if our heart does not change deeply, like that of Zacchaeus. Love has been talking to us for a long time and says, "Get off your tree. I want to stay at your place". And we are so afraid to let ourselves be loved. If only we dared, everything else would become accessory.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, June 2007