Gospel Luke 19:1-10
“He was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was…”
Zacchaeus was not a particularly well-liked man. That perhaps is putting it lightly.
And we know that Jesus tended to seek out those who were like him, publicly known to be ‘sinners,’ low-lifes, and the like.
Something that strikes me in this story though is Zacchaeus’s own drive to see ‘what kind of man Jesus was.’ No doubt he’d heard stories of this wandering preacher, healer and miracle worker. He’d know that he had a propensity to seek out the outcasts, and perhaps he was there with a faint hope that he’d be welcomed by him.
When reading this story though, it seems that poor old Zacchaeus lost hope in any really encounter with the man. Instead, he climbed a tree, just to catch a glimpse of him, to see if the stories he had heard were even close to being real.
True to form, this is where Jesus exceeds all expectations – seeking him out, he invites himself over to Zacchaeus’ house to share a meal with him. And by opening himself to this encounter Zacchaeus is changed. Reflecting on this encounter, Italian priest Luigi Giussani writes, ‘Quite simply, he [Zacchaeus] had been penetrated and captured by a gaze that recognized and loved him for what he was. The ability to take hold of the heart of a man is the greatest, most persuasive miracle of all.’ (p. 53)
This is what mercy looks like – a real encounter with the depth of the person, that recognises one’s real identity – that recognises that I am made for so much more (see GS n.22), and that it is in fact possible, with the grace of God, to live this way.
Words of Wisdom
“This is what our hearts really want: a God who is intimate while remaining really God.”
– Lorenzo Albacete, ‘God at the Ritz’
Christ gives us back a humanity capable of justice, of joy, of welcome – a true humanity; and he does this by coming to our house.
Giussani, Luigi. ‘Why the Church?’, p. 188