It might be a tough love sometimes, but it’s never dehumanizing, it never attacks our dignity, it is never without hope, it is never intimidating or against our will. Jesus would really like it if His brothers and sisters, you and I, would love each other in the same way. He’d really like us to be one just as He and the Father are one, and for the world to recognize Him by our love for each other.
Our focus on today’s Gospel depends upon the way in which one word which is spoken twice, is translated. We read that Zacchaeus stood before Jesus, in response to the crowd, and strongly declared, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I (shall) give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I (shall) repay it four times over.” Although it is common to translate this sentence with a future tense meaning, strictly speaking it is a present tense verb. Theologians debate whether it ought to be understood in the present or future tense.
I like what we can learn from the story, if we consider that Zacchaeus was already a 'Son of Abraham'. It leads to a much deeper meaning with greater connections to the rest of the Gospel, but especially the end of chapter 18 and the beginning of 19. Zacchaeus is definitely a rich man and works as a tax collector, which doesn't automatically make him a crook. He is appears to be a man of faith who is moved by that faith to give to the poor and always to correct injustice with generosity. He's very excited to catch a glimpse of Jesus filled with joy when Jesus recognizes him and invites himself over! In the face of the accusations of the his extremely judgmental brothers and sisters of faith, he strongly declares that he acts as a true 'Son of Abraham and Jesus affirms that he knows this is true.
Sadly, the people don’t see him this way, but instead they judge him by what he does for work. If we read the story in this way, we see a great example of a person of faith, who lives his faith, and is persecuted by his own brothers and sisters instead of praised.
Too often, people experience 'church' in this same way. Too often, people become deeply wounded by their brothers and sisters in Christ and too often the 'church' is more a refuge for the pharisee than a place of healing for the sinner. Focusing on this we can become part of the very same negative spirit of disunity in the 'church'. Even as Zacchaeus responded to his 'judges', he did not attack them, he merely pointed out there error.
To love each in Christ, is not easy but it is possible by the power and grace of God and it is essential to the salvation of the world. Christ wants the body of believers, His body, to experience the kind of union the He and the Father experience. Christ wants us to be blazing with fires of faith. Christ wants to be recognizable to the world, through us... by our love for each other they will see.
Peace doesn't just happen; it's made.
CampusPadre is a college ministry Priest Chaplain with 30 years experience in youth and young adult ministry, who strives to let the Holy Spirit lead and challenges students to seek holiness above all.