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Sudden, Yet Anticipated Encounter
Tuesday of the Thirty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
He entered Jericho and was going through the town and suddenly a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He kept trying to see who Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him, “Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today.” And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. “He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house,” they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, “Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost.”
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, increase my faith and may your Kingdom come in my heart and in the world.
- Suddenly: Today’s Gospel begins by telling us that Zacchaeus suddenly appeared on Jesus’ radar: “Suddenly a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance.” While it may have seemed like it was sudden, Jesus was prepared for this encounter. Perhaps he even anticipated this encounter with great joy. Jesus told him, “Hurry down, for I am to stay at your house today.” It was a sudden surprise for his Apostles and even for Zacchaeus, but not for Jesus, who desired a familial and friendly encounter with an apparent sinner, a tax collector. As in the case of Zacchaeus, Jesus can surprise us suddenly. In his divine providence, he is always looking out for opportunities to come to our house.
- The Best Vantage Point: This passage leaves us room to imagine the interior state of Zacchaeus. The evangelist tells us that “he ran ahead to climb a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way.” What caused this? What had he heard about Jesus beforehand? Perhaps he had been anticipating Jesus’ arrival. Being a Jew, perhaps a spark of hope was ignited in him, fueled by memories of his parents and grandparents’ faith in the coming of a Messiah. Something interiorly moved him to seek the best vantage point. Just a glimpse of Jesus would be enough for him. His handicap of being too short was converted into an advantage that kindled devotion and he acted upon it. He was perhaps better prepared to meet the Lord because of it.
- The Encounter: When Zacchaeus was accused of being a sinner, he defended himself. He shared with Jesus how he had tried to be a righteous person. Jesus’ response was to profess that salvation had come to his house. Jesus brings salvation. We must anticipate, desire, and open the door of our house to him. What a great gift Zacchaeus had “suddenly” received. A history of two thousand years, since the time of Abraham, had prepared the way for this encounter. Jesus professed to all who heard, “This man too is a son of Abraham; for the son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost.” In this encounter, a sinner was saved, a son of the chosen people, to be light for others.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, thank you for the ways in which you come to my rescue. You seek me out when I am lost. Enkindle in me the desire to anticipate your coming and to open the way for you. Thank you for your mercy and goodness.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will reflect on the ways in which divine providence has enkindled faith and hope in my life.
Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala and “Nine Days with Mary Magdalene.”