October 30, 2022
Sister Clare Carr, OSB shares a reflection on the scripture readings: Wisdom 11:22-12:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10
Preparing a reflection is always a stretch for me. It feels like giving “birth” in some way. Words don’t come easy for me. So, I read a number of commentaries and decided that one of the better choices was the one given by our dear Pope Francis to the young people in Krakow Poland in 2016, during World Youth Day.
Francis observes that there are three obstacles that Zacchaeus had to overcome. First, is his smallness of stature, secondly, the paralysis of shame and thirdly, the grumbling of the crowd around him.
What we read in the text is that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. Second, he was a wealthy man and thirdly, he was of small stature.
Being a tax collector classified one as a sinner. Tax collectors were Jews among their own, who extorted their own people to make a profit. He was also held in disgust because he had an alliance with the Roman conquerors who worshiped false gods.
Being wealthy may seem to place him in opposition to Jesus, owing to the many parables and stories of Luke on “how difficult it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “(Lk. 18:24). But that was not the case here.
Given Zacchaeus’ disadvantages he mustered a longing to catch a glimpse of Jesus. A longing so dire that was set to overcome all obstacles preventing him from seeing Jesus. His longing was an invitation to be known by Jesus, or to at least glimpse him. Perhaps his smallness, his tentativeness, his seeing Jesus, but staying at a distance was due to his sense shame, his longing to be something more. I can only imagine his trepidation in climbing a tree to see Jesus. What would people think? Not only could Jesus see him, but so could all the others. They would all know of his shame, his cheating his own. The animosity would have been palpable. I am sure that there were those who would have wanted to throttle him. Also, being a man of wealth, it would seem demeaning to have him climbing a tree.
What is amazing to me is that he was seen. Seen by the lover of us all. “Jesus looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house’” (Lk. 19:6). And in the recognition, he experienced conversion, a willingness to pay half of his possessions to make amends for his extortion. Jesus’ gaze opened his heart to a generosity unknown. His gaze called forth the best in this man. Jesus’s gaze made room in his heart for change, a gaze that looks at us daily inviting us to be our best selves, to set aside our judgments, our condemnations, our own hypocrisy as witnessed in the crowd around Zacchaeus. To allow another to be welcomed into our spaces and homes.
As Benedictines we are all called to be men and women of hospitality. To create space for others to find room in and with us. The Rule of St. Benedict penetrates the notion that we have arrived at holiness. As Zacchaeus, we too are sinners, seeking to be saints. We are to be women who see the presence of Christ in all those who cross our threshold. And more intimately we are invited to see the Christ in each other. In perhaps those who are of little stature. Those who are experiencing memory loss, lost mobility, and at time disagreeable temperaments. Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Lk 19:9). The root word for salvation is salve-a healing ointment. For all those who enter here and to those living here, may we be a healing ointment. A healing presence.