By By Rev. Fr. Rommel M. Arcilla
Sycamore Tree
posted 12 days ago  ·  
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Zacchaeus was a tax collector who found mercy. We don’t know whether he was aware of his sin, we don’t know why he was seeking the Lord; perhaps it was nothing more than idle curiosity which prompted him to climb into the sycamore tree.

Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, that is to say, he was a leader of a group of publicans. With this, we can immediately conclude that he was not only rich, but very rich. In the eyes of the world, he was really a giant, but in spite of all these, he was still considered as a public sinner and despised by everyone. His small stature represents his misery even if he was truly rich in material possessions.

In that sycamore tree began an encounter which changed his life. To make up for his deficiency in height, he climbed a sycamore three, along the path where Jesus was passing through. It was a form of humility because no one in his position would ever do such a thing. However, this humiliation became the means of his own salvation.

Jesus looked up to him even if most of the people looked down on him as a public sinner. Jesus saw in this man’s heart a desire which perhaps Zacchaeus himself didn’t even see. Jesus took the initiative and Jesus invited himself into Zacchaeus’ life. When Jesus said that he intended to visit his house that day, Zacchaeus was so overwhelmed that he spontaneously declared that he will give half his property to charity and to pay back four times the amount to anyone he has cheated in the name of justice.

This awareness of his sins, that he had cheated and defrauded other people, was not only an expression of paying back for the sake of justice. This was actually the turning point or the renewal in the life of Zacchaeus. It was his proclamation that Jesus was over and above all the riches in this world that he can get. It was a moment of grace for Zacchaeus, for the God whom people would like to meet in their places of worship is now the same living God who would want to go to his house.

I believe that, in the Kingdom of God, everything is turned upside down: the last are first and the first last; the humble and the poor and those with a low reputation are brought up to the head of the table.

“Today salvation has come to this house!” These words of Jesus while inside the house of Zacchaeus made clear that: sinfulness, followed by curiosity, followed by an encounter with the Lord, followed by conversion, followed by repentance meant salvation for those souls lost in their worldly and self-centred ambitions.

On the other hand, the crowd became so envious. They were not open to change and they had no sense of their own sinfulness. Their envy made them unable to give thanks to God for the remarkable transformation that has occurred in Zacchaeus. These people can never be happy over the little joys and achievements of others and we have a lot of this kind even in our present situation.

They can never understand it because they are looking down at Zacchaeus in his miserable state and sinfulness rather than thinking of their own failures and need to implore the mercy of God. They failed to see the miraculous transformation and renewal in Zacchaeus. Their self-centeredness made them blind to the grace of God going on right under their noses.

My dear friends, in life we always are confronted with choices that we have to make. We are always faced with the choice of whether to join Zacchaeus or to join the pharisaical crowd. However, Jesus is always here with us all the time. All we need to do now is to find and climb our own sycamore tree so we could finally see and meet our Lord. If we will continue to look over our shoulders at what others have gained or meet Jesus in our own sycamore trees, repent of our sins and give our excess to the poor is the fundamental choice that we have to make. That is the question which confronts us today. It is a question which will not go away.

The Grace of Jesus and the humility and cooperation of Zacchaeus met in that sycamore tree and the effect was tremendous. It overflowed with charity to those who have less in life and it was achieved by the man of small stature, Zacchaeus. Now, his greatness lies in his charity and justice to others and this what saved him.

(Author’s note: this article was inspired by the reflections of Fr. Vladimir Echalas, SOLT, on the same topic.)

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