Wis 11: 22-12: 2; 2 Thes 1: 11-2: 2; Lk 19: 1-10
CLIMBING THE SYCAMORE TREE.
The Jews were under the Roman domination at the time of Christ. At this time, the Romans imposed taxes on the Jews. In order to make the payment of taxes more effective, the Romans entered into contract with some Jews to collect these taxes from their fellow folks. Zacchaeus and Matthew the apostle were tax collectors. Zacchaeus was not just a tax collector, the Gospel tells us that he was the chief tax collector of the city of Jericho and you have to be rich before you can qualify as a chief tax collector. The Romans levied each city a particular amount of tax to pay; the chief tax collector would pay this amount and in turn would determine how much each person pays in order to get his money back. You can imagine how bad it would have been. Everybody had to pay because of fear of being reported as a rebel to the Roman government. The tax collectors would collect more than required in order to enrich their pockets. They were really extorting their own people using their offices. Any money they made above the sum they had already paid to the Romans became their gain. As a result, the people condemned their actions and treated them as sinners because of their corruption and contamination with the pagan Romans.
But money is not everything. Money can buy you a bed but not sleep, it can buy you everything but not peace or happiness. Zacchaeus had no peace of mind despite all his wealth. The people would not associate with him, he was alienated. He would have been searching for inner peace and happiness. So, when he heard about Jesus and the mighty works and miracles Jesus was doing, he decided to go and see what sort of man Jesus was and probably to see whether he could hear some comforting words from Jesus. Again, Zacchaeus would have been wondering why and how that poor man from Nazareth was gathering all the followers. He probably wanted also to see the trick or magic Jesus was using. But there was an obstacle, Zacchaeus was very short. He could not see Jesus and nobody could give him any chance among the teeming crowds following Jesus. So, he decided to run ahead and climb a sycamore tree. Imagine that kind of a rich man grabbing the stem/trunk of a big tree with his two hands and climbing up. It was strange because the boys and the slaves were the ones who climbed trees in those days but here is this wealthy man climbing. How would it look like seeing a bank manager or IRS chairperson climbing a tree in this kind of circumstance? But the truth is that Zacchaeus realized his limitation and he never allowed it to hinder him from seeing Jesus.
We have got some questions for pondering: Are there some limitations on your way to encountering Jesus? Have you identified those limitations? Today, we are not dwelling on physical limitations but the spiritual ones. So, are you spiritually short? We may be made spiritually short by anger, laziness to prayer, resentment, back biting, malice, complacency, imprudent in words and actions, lack of forgiveness, corruption, extortion, intimidation, oppression, etc. These vices may be standing on our way to seeing and encountering Jesus. Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree in order to overcome his limitation. Are we ready to climb the spiritual sycamore tree? The spiritual sycamore tree may be repentance forgiveness, confession, compassion. It takes humility to climb the sycamore tree. The sycamore became a link between the sinner and the sinless One. So, can you climb the sycamore and make use of this link? Are you ready to climb? Some of us can but may not be ready. We ask God to give us the grace to be ready and willing to climb.
Jesus is a very loving and merciful man. The first reading says that the Lord is merciful to all and He overlooks people’s sins that they may repent (Wis 11: 23). That was exactly what Jesus did to Zacchaeus. When he saw him on the tree, he called him by name, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house” (Lk 19: 5). Jesus calls you by name. The Bible says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isa 43: 1-3). The people would have been jeering at Zacchaeus but he knew what he wanted and never allowed shame to deter him. Jesus knew that the people hated Zacchaeus but Jesus loved him and wanted to touch his life. The Bible tells us that Jesus has come not to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Lk 5: 32). We need to be aware that God has not finished with any of us. We are still like clay undergoing the process of moulding. All of us will be moulded to a perfect shape if we cooperate with God. We should not condemn people thinking that they cannot change again. There is always a moment of change, a moment of listening to that inner voice telling us to turn around. Like Zacchaeus, we need to remove shame from our Christian life in order to seek this change and get what we want from Jesus.
When Jesus was at dinner in the house of Zacchaeus the tax collector, the people started grumbling and criticizing Jesus for such action. Why would Jesus visit the house of a sinner instead of their own house? We can also fall into this group when we are not happy that another person is being recognized instead of us. We must not always suppose that we should be the centre of attraction. (Story of thieves who spray money at the market place). In all of these drama, the love of Jesus for Zacchaeus made him to make a public statement of restitution and charity. Zacchaeus promised to give half of his possessions to the poor and to repay four times any one he has cheated. Let me ask: how many of those people criticizing Jesus could do what Zacchaeus did? How many of us can do what Zacchaeus did? He aligned himself with the salvation that came to his house and repented. The action of Zacchaeus calls us to repentance and restitution. It calls us to humility and determination. May God help us all.
Rev Faustinus Okeyikam, MSP
En el tiempo de Cristo , los judíos estaban bajo la dominación romana . Los romanos les impusieron impuestos a los judíos y contrataron algunos judíos para cobrar estos impuestos a la misma gente de su pueblo . Los recaudadores de impuestos recogían más de lo necesario con el fin de enriquecer sus bolsillos. Zaqueo era el jefe de los recaudadores de impuestos pero no tenía tranquilidad a pesar de toda su riqueza. Es probable que buscaba paz interior y felicidad , por eso cuando oyó hablar de Jesus, decidió ver que clase de hombre era Jesus. Pero había un obstáculo, Zaqueo era bajó de estatura (Chaparro). No podía ver a Jesus y nadie le daba oportunidad de hacerlo. Por lo tanto decidió subirse a un árbol sicomoro. Zaqueo se dio cuenta de su limitación y no permitió que esto le impidiera ver a Jesus. Hay algunas limitaciones en tu camino para encontrar a Jesus? Haz identificado estas limitaciones? Estas pueden ser la ira, la pereza, la corrupción, etc. Pidamos a Dios que nos de la gracia de estar listos y dispuestos a superar las limitaciones de nuestra vida Cristiana. AMÉN