The readings today all have within them a certain idea of “calling.” The first reading from Wisdom ponders: “And how could a thing remain, unless you had willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?”
Paul writes to the Thessalonians that he prays to God that this community be made “worthy of his calling.”
And in the Gospel, Jesus looks up and calls down — by name — one of the leading tax collectors in the area. Last week’s Gospel revealed God’s mercy to sinners — and especially the despised tax collectors — through the Parable of the Repentant Tax Collector and the Self-Righteous Pharisee. This week we read a true story of not just any tax collector, but a chief tax collector.
Zacchaeus had been extorting his own people for years and grown rich from his position. Now, filled with curiosity and drawn by something deep within, he longs to see Jesus, who is passing through his town. He makes one small “effort of faith” and scrambles up a tree, scanning the crowd.
Zacchaeus, whose name means “pure,” wants to see God. His desires will be fulfilled beyond anything he could imagine. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). And always, it is God who sees us first: Jesus stops under the tree. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” Must stay. Here was the plan all along, ordained from the beginning.
But from the throng arises a collective, resentful murmur as they realize what is happening. The people had hoped Jesus was coming to save them from the Romans, and here he was inviting himself into the home of someone who was collaborating with them — into the elegant home their own money had been used to build! They had all been just hoping for a glimpse, maybe a touch — and this sinner was going to dine with Jesus. It was too much.
But Zacchaeus only has eyes for Jesus. “Behold,” he says, converted on the spot. “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.” He knows he is not worthy to have the Lord “enter under his roof” (Matthew 8:8), but he wants to make things right.
Jesus accepts his repentant heart. “Today salvation has come to this house,” he declares. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost.”
We, too, are called by God: called to “come down” and descend to the depths of our being, where he has been dwelling since our baptism — where he abides with us, especially in each Holy Communion, where our desire meets his. We are also called to welcome him and turn away from sin, swatting away the suggestion of the enemy that we are not called to his table. And, then, we are called to continue the mission of Christ, to see those on the periphery, looking with curiosity and hunger into our Christian lives — and to call them to the banquet, too.
Claire Dwyer blogs about saints, spirituality and the sacred
everyday. She is editor of
SpiritualDirection.com and coordinates adult faith formation at her parish in Phoenix,
where she lives with her husband and their six children.