Don’t know if this has happened to you, but it has happened to me several times. While standing on the sidewalk waiting for the New Year’s Rose Parade, or sitting in a movie theater anticipating a “talked about” movie, someone will stand/sit right in front of me blocking my vision. Instead of saying something I would later regret, I would move elsewher for a better view.
In Luke’s gospel (Luke 19:1-10) we note that something similar happened to Zacchaeus as he was waiting to see Jesus coming into Jericho. He was such a small man and knew his view would be blocked, so he climbed a tree to get a better view.
There was something curious in the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus. Almost immediately, Jesus saw Zacchaeus peeking at him through some sycamore branches, so Jesus told him to come down and then he invited himself over to Zacchaeus’ house. What an extraordinary set of events! Jesus called him by name and said that he wanted to go to his house. No wonder Zacchaeus was puzzled, but happy nonethe less.
That calling by name and the self invitation by Jesus was enough to be a sort of “conversion” experience for Zacchaeus. That “conversion” experience resulted in his gift of generosity to the poor and justice for those
whom he “cheated.”
Notice what happened. Two key concepts in the narrative are: “see” and “taking initiative.” Zacchaeus wanted to “see” Jesus, and so he “took initative” by climbing the sycamore tree. Jesus “saw” Zacchaeus, and then “took initiative” by inviting himself over to his house.
This experience with Jesus brought about somewhat of a “conversion” which resulted in generosity and justice. As a result of this conversion, Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
What can we learn from this Scripture reading? First, we must “see” Jesus in other people. Especially those who are marginalized in society. Seeing Jesus in others means that we must treat people with dignity, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. If we “take initiative” and not wait to be told, most likely there may be a “conversion experience” which likely may result in generosity and justice.
The second thing that we can learn from this reading is the consequence of our actions. Jesus is always looking for us, and he has a better chance of seeing us if we let him (by “seeing” him in others). And if our “conversion” experience is genuine, he will tell us what he told Zacchaeus, “Today, salvation has come to this house.”