Sunday, January 29, 2012

Zacchaeus Sunday Reflections

This morning we heard the account of a man who:

1) Made restitution for his many sins,
2) Received forgiveness,
3) Was given the honor of hosting Jesus in his home, and
4) Saw the very face of his Lord and Savior.

But the thing is, in Luke 19:1-10 those things happen in reverse order! And the progression was a surprise every step of the way.

When Zacchaeus climbed that sycamore, he did not imagine that he would later offer half his belongings to the poor and offer restitution to anyone he had wronged. When he climbed that tree, he did not do so expecting that it would result in Jesus dining in his home. He did so simply to see Jesus. And he hadn't really planned any further than that.

We hear people say that we need to invite God into our hearts. That's all fine and good, but Jesus in this story doesn't wait for an invitation. He invites himself! And that shows us the spiritual dimension of this tale. No matter how meager our attempt to draw near to God, he will respond in surprising ways to invite himself deeper into our lives than we could have imagined.

When Jesus invites himself to the house of Zacchaeus, he has, in fact, forgiven him already. And that's what causes the scandal to the others. But Zacchaeus responds to this offer of new life by going well beyond the requirements of the Mosaic Law and gives away half his belongings and offers to make four-fold restitution to anyone he has wronged. And again, that's how it is with God. We are forgiven first and our penitential response is to joyfully make amends. We don't deserve forgiveness in the first place. All we can do is respond in gratitude, as Zacchaeus shows us.

Here is the original tree Zacchaeus climbed in Jericho, which we visited this summer. Out of its roots have grown other nearby trees which still live today.

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