It’s common for me to say that I have a good bit of friends. I know I have lots of Facebook friends, and of course there are people that I call my friends who may or may not be on Facebook. However, as you can probably relate just because you call someone a friend or are friends with them on Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean you are extremely close or share secrets. There are a small handful of people that I consider very close friends who I could share almost anything with, even my struggles with sin. What I find with these friends is that I usually enjoy going out with them to eat or inviting them to my place to share a meal. I know as a child we could tell our better friends by who we invited over for dinner.
In our Gospel this weekend, we hear about a short man named Zacchaeus. He climbs a sycamore tree that he can try and see Jesus. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and not only a tax collector but a chief tax collector. He was a wealthy man, and he likely got his wealth by stealing and charging a higher tax rate than he needed to. As a chief tax collector, he was over many other tax collectors gaining lots and lot of money. However, there is something about Jesus that draws him to want to climb a tree to see Jesus. Jesus too is seeking after Zacchaeus, and he says to him. “Come down quickly” Jesus wants to have that close encounter with Zacchaeus by entering into his home and having communion with him. Jesus is seeking more than just a nice meal from a wealthy man. Rather, Jesus too, is seeking to be in communion with Zacchaeus, to be to Zacchaeus like a friend would be to another friend.
The interaction with our Lord moves Zacchaeus to repentance and reconciliation. However, Zacchaeus does more than just asking forgiveness for his sin. He looks to repay the wrong has he done to others and give his wealth to the poor. We hear that he gives half of his possessions to the poor, and if he has ever defrauded anyone or stole from anyone, he would give it back fourfold. We don’t know how much that is, but I wonder if Zacchaeus went broke from all that he had to give back. However, much, it was Zacchaeus. It was backing up his repentance with action and changing his life after his encounter with our Lord.
I believe we can learn a lot from this encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus. First of all we should be reminded that Jesus seeks after us and wants us to have communion with him; he wants us to be like friends. Pay attention closely to what happened, Zacchaeus, while he was looking for Jesus, wasn’t the one to initiate the conversation. Rather Jesus calls him by name and asks to go to his house. Jesus too, calls us by name to love God and our neighbor.
As we allow Jesus to enter our lives, we are called to open up completely to him. I know as a child, when we would invite people over, there were certain parts of the house we normally didn’t hang out in. IT wasn’t that we were hiding anything, but it was natural for us not to go into the bedroom or other parts of the house because there was no need to see that. In our own lives there can be things that we want to keep to ourselves, certain sins, pain from the past. They are almost like rooms in our house that we want to keep closed and locked so no-one can see them. However, Jesus wants to enter that part of our life and bring healing into that area. If we allow him to come into that area he can help us to heal!
Finally, our encounter with the Lord should move us to a change of life and repentance. Zacchaeus was moved to sell half of his possessions and makeup to what he defrauded to the poor. We may not be called to give up half of our possessions, but we should, in some way do good things to repent for our sins. Our challenge is not only to repent of our sins and ask for forgiveness but also to do some penance and seek to change our lives when we do receive God’s mercy.
As we continue our journey with the Lord, may we trust in him and allow him to enter our lives like a good close friend. May we, too, not be afraid to reveal to him what is on our hearts and minds and not hide anything from him.