CAN I CHANGE?
Luke narrates the episode of Zacchaeus so that his readers would better discover what they can expect of Jesus: the Lord they invoke and follow in the Christian communities «has come to seek out and save what was lost». They must never forget it.
At the same time, this story of what Zacchaeus does, helps to answer the question that many carry within: Can I still change? Isn’t it by now too late to redo a life that, for the most part, has gone to waste? What steps can I take?
Zacchaeus enters the scene, described in two ways that define his life precisely. He is «one of the senior tax collectors» and is «wealthy». In Jericho everyone knows that he is a sinner. Someone who doesn’t serve God but serves money. His life, like so many others, isn’t very humane.
However Zacchaeus «was trying to see Jesus». It’s not just curiosity. He wants to know who he is, what it is about this Prophet that so attracts people. This is not an easy task for a man snug within his own world. But this desire for Jesus will change his life.
The man will have to overcome different obstacles. He’s «short of stature», mainly because his life isn’t motivated by very noble ideals. The people are another impediment: he will have to overcome social prejudices that make it difficult for him to have a personal and responsible meeting with Jesus.
But Zacchaeus keeps at his quest simply and sincerely. He runs to get ahead of the crowd, and climbs a tree like a child. He doesn’t think about his dignity as an important person. He only wants to find a moment and a place adequate to make contact with Jesus. He wants to see him.
That’s when he discovers that Jesus also is seeking him, since when Jesus reaches that place, he looks around for him and says: «The meeting will be this very day in your sinner’s house». Zacchaeus comes down and receives him in his house full of joy. There are decisive moments when Jesus passes through our life because he wants to save our wasted life. He won’t let us escape from it.
Luke doesn’t describe the meeting. He only speaks of Zacchaeus’ transformation. He changes his way of looking at life: he no longer thinks just about his money, but about others’ suffering. He changes his way of life: he will do justice for those he has exploited and will share his goods with the poor.
Sooner or later, we all run the risk of «setting ourselves up» in life, renouncing any aspiration of living more humanely. We believers need to know that a more authentic meeting with Jesus can make our life more human and, above all, more in solidarity.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf