Jesus’ encounter with Zacch…
A beautiful model of evangelization
(This article is written more in the form of a homily. The readings are…First Reading: Wisdom 11: 22–12: 2
Second Reading: Second Thessalonians 1: 11–2: 2
Gospel: Luke 19: 1–10)
The second reading commences with an exhortation from Paul; We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfilment every good purpose and every effort of faith. Each one of us has a calling, and God continues to grand us the grace to live that vocation. Surely, there is a choice we have to make at each moment to accept it or not. Zacchaeus too has vocation; he was a tax collector and a super-rich man. Surely, he was a much-hated man. He extorted money from the Jews. But even that man had a desire, one among his many desires. A desire to see this person called Jesus. Jesus shows a beautiful model of spreading his kingdom of God, or a model of evangelization.
Before we discuss the gospel, the first reading tells us something that is very interesting about each one of us and of God. “For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.” The goodness of creation which Genesis and many other books of the Bible speaks is repeated by the book of Wisdom. The author says, “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.” Yes, mercy of God is there even before you repent; it is not something that comes after our repentance. God’s mercy constantly invites us to God and to repentance. These aspects from the first reading, goodness of creation and God’s mercy existing before our repentance, also forms the basis of Jesus’ model of evangelization of Zacchaeus.
Beyond all the negativities of Zacchaeus, Jesus sees that desire, surely a sign of the original goodness of the entire creation. Many of us might have heard stories where someone said that because of the trust and love of that one person, “l could achieve many things in life.” Zacchaeus too might say that because of that one man seeing my desire, I am transformed. Jesus interacts with him, invites him to come down and self-invites himself to the house of Zacchaeus. The crowd probably has every good reason to murmur. How can this holy man, or the son of God, goes into the house of terrible sinner. We might critique saying Jesus did not have the real ability to see through. Or we might say, Jesus is too taken up by that one desire, forgetting everything else. He is doing the same mistake of leaving the 99 for the sake of one. I think its important to listen to these murmurs, these murmurs, not of pharisees, but of each one of us against others, may be in problematic conditions and to transform ourselves.
Jesus enters the house; the charismatic preacher is not uttering a word in that family. They would have greeted each other etc. But Jesus is not giving a teaching. But the first discourse is by Zacchaeus. By no demand of anyone, he says that he is going to share his wealth; he is going to make reparations for his mistakes.
Jesus sees the desire in him; invites him to come down, have a very human encounter. No preaching is done. Person is transformed. This is the model for us. Jesus is not against preaching or anything, but as Francis of Assis says, preach always, use words if needed. Let our models of evangelization becomes models of showing God’s mercy and revealing some trace of original goodness of the person. Once those happens, transformation follows. Yes, let Jesus’ dealing with Zacchaeus inspires us and guides us. Amen.