Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel for the Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time, October 30, 2022. The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflections October 30 2022. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photo: [[File:Neuilly-sur-Seine Saint-Pierre248.JPG|Neuilly-sur-Seine Saint-Pierre248]] [[File:Niels Larsen Stevns- Zakæus.jpg|Niels Larsen Stevns- Zakæus]]
Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “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.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
In the gospel from last week, Jesus told the familiar parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple. This week the gospel describes Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector. Between these two texts are five other passages. Luke describes how the people were bringing infants to Jesus so that he could touch them (Luke 18:15-17). An official asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus urged that official to sell what he had and invited him to become his follower. The official went away sad because he had many possessions (Luke 18:18-23). This incident leads Jesus to comment on how wealth makes it difficult to enter the Kingdom of God. Also in this chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus makes his third prediction of his passion and resurrection, and he heals a blind beggar (Luke 18: 24-43).
At the beginning of this Sunday’s gospel Luke tells us that Jesus intends to pass through Jericho. The text also states that Zacchaeus is trying to see Jesus. That desire to see Jesus leads a wealthy, short, chief tax collector to climb a tree along Jesus’ route. The text says that Jesus looks up and tells Zacchaeus to hurry down because he must stay at his house today. Zacchaeus responds by hurrying down the tree and receiving Jesus into his house with great joy. A great deal is happening about which we are not told. What is it that makes Jesus, who intended to only pass through Jericho, decide he needs to stay at the house of Zacchaeus? What has happened within Zacchaeus that he would climb a tree just so he could see Jesus, and welcome him into his home with great joy?
Who was this Zacchaeus? He was a chief tax collector on a major east-west trade route. Because he was a chief tax collector, he probably had other tax collectors working under him. Because Jericho was on a trade route, it presented more opportunity to collect taxes on goods.
The Jews prided themselves for being a people whom God had freed from slavery. They despised any form of servitude to foreign rule. They would have looked upon all tax collectors with disdain, and a chief tax collector even more so. Because of that bias, they likely missed other qualities in Zacchaeus: That Zacchaeus desired to see Jesus, which led him to risk the embarrassing spectacle of a short man running ahead of the crowd to climb a tree and get above the crowd, just so he could get a glimpse of Jesus. When Jesus invites himself to stay at his house, Zacchaeus climbs down the tree and welcomes Jesus with great hospitality. When he expresses his desire to make reparation for anyone he has wronged, he promises to return whatever he extorted four-fold, and give to the poor half his possessions. Those who see Zacchaeus as a sinner and grumble that Jesus has gone to dine at the house of a sinner do not seem to be able to recognize this side of a man they know a chief tax collector.
- How do you feel about paying taxes? Does your attitude spill over to people who work for the IRS?
- How do you feel about people who are wealthy? Do you personally know anyone that fits that description?
- Who are the people with whom you are comfortable sharing a meal? Who are the people with whom you would be uncomfortable?
- Do you know how many times in the gospels Jesus eats with sinners, women, or outcasts?
- Why do you think Jesus says to Zacchaeus, “I must stay at your house?” (Luke 19:5)
- Do you think Jesus would also like to come and stay at your house?
- What would you do to catch a glimpse of Jesus if he was walking down a street in your community? What would you be willing to do just to be able to see him?
- Does your response to the above question ring true with the effort you put into your present prayer life?
- Can you talk with God now about what you imagine went on between Jesus and Zacchaeus that day when they encountered each other, or maybe you would rather talk about your own desire to see Jesus and hear him invite himself to stay in your house. What would that be like for you?