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Home : Faith/Spirituality : Columns
Christ has come to stay with us

Mary Jo Tully
Chancellor, Archdiocese of Portland

Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 11:22-12:2
2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2
Luke 19:1-10

Whether you find them in a parable or in a tree, the colorful characters in St. Luke’s Gospel are fascinating. Zacchaeus is a good example. At the time of Jesus, tax collectors were particularly hated because they were collecting taxes for the oppressors.

Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector.

On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus passed through Jericho and Zacchaeus was curious. Luke tells us that there was a crowd lining the streets and Zacchaeus could not see. That did not deter him. He climbed a sycamore tree. Zacchaeus was accustomed to getting what he wanted so we might easily suspect he would have found a way to see the Lord even if there were no trees. As clever as Zacchaeus was, the essential element in the story is not that Zacchaeus saw Jesus; but rather that Jesus saw Zacchaeus. The tables were turned.

In recent months we have heard stories of the individuals who Pope Francis stops to acknowledge and even embrace as he travels through Vatican Square. Imagine what it would be like to have him say to you, “…today I must stay at your house.”

A president or a pope almost always chooses one of the “ordinary people” from a group. The action enables all of us to feel selected and special because they are people just like us. No one feels slighted when one of these is chosen. But this is different. Jesus does more than merely clasp the hand of Zacchaeus. His was not just a passing nod or a few words. He actually moved into Zacchaeus’ world and invited himself to stay with this little man whom he selected from the crowd. Zacchaeus responded immediately and enthusiastically. The Lord had changed not only the character of this day but all the days which would follow. Zacchaeus saw his world in a new way.

Sometimes it is difficult to find the Lord in the midst of troubling events. Like Zacchaeus, we need a new perspective. We need to move to a place where Jesus can be found. We need to seek him in our liturgy. When we find God, we discover that he is already with us.

Jesus has done no less for us than he did for Zacchaeus. He has entered our history and invited himself into our world. He has laughed with us and he has wept with us. He has shared a meal with us and stayed with us. He noticed us long before we noticed him. We did nothing extraordinary to attract his attention; but he sought us out and changed our lives.

At this Eucharist, we remember our salvation has come and we are called to repentance. Like Zacchaeus, we give praise and thanksgiving to the Father who has sent Jesus to stay with us.

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