Daily Reflection
November 18th, 2003
Joan Howard
University College
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2 Maccabees 6:18-31
Psalm 3:2-3, 4-5, 6-8
Luke 19:1-10

Today’s gospel is about the “chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, who was “also a wealthy man.”  On October 12, we read about the wealthy man who approached Jesus with the question about what he should do in order to be saved.  Interestingly, these two wealthy men had quite different encounters with Jesus.

The unnamed wealthy man boldly “ran up” to Jesus.  He claimed to have observed the commandments since his youth and wanted to know “what I must do to inherit eternal life.” Was he secretly expecting a pat on the back for a life well lived?  Jesus answered, “You are lacking in one thing.  Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor…then come follow me.  At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.”

Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector “was seeking to see who Jesus was.”  He would not be put off by his physical limitation, and so put himself in a better position.  He climbed up into a tree.  Jesus noticed and said, “Zaccheaus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.  And he came down quickly and received him with joy.”

The tone surrounding the unnamed wealthy man is dark and sluggish.  He has always done what was expected and required.  He has lived by the law.  But, there is no excitement in his encounter with Jesus and he goes away “sad.”

With Zacchaeus there is excitement.  I can picture this little man running behind the crowds, jumping up and down, trying to get a peek of Jesus.  Then scrambling up a tree in hopes of getting a good view and maybe even hearing what Jesus is saying.  Then comes the surprise of the day, Jesus says that he wants to have dinner at Zacchaeus’ house!  And Zacchaeus, with out hesitation, “came down quickly and received him with joy.”

Two wealthy men. Both wanting to hear what Jesus had to say. One received Jesus and his message with joy, while the other went away in sadness.  Why?  What was the difference?  The unnamed wealthy man could not part with his possessions and went away.  Zacchaeus also wealthy, could not come out of the tree fast enough!  Not only did he receive Jesus with joy, but he offered to give half his possessions to the poor and to repay any debts four fold.

These readings are about God and God’s unique intimate invitation to each one of us.  In the invitation is a call to live beyond the letter of the law – to accept the challenge of risk and to let my life overflow in mercy and compassion for my neighbor.  As we say today, it is about the invitation and challenge to step beyond my comfort zone.  It is not so much about giving to the poor, but of letting go of whatever it is that prevents me doing so.

As with Zacchaeus and the unnamed man, I must first recognize what it is that I am so attached to – what is my addiction?  What do I hold on to?  Or, what holds me?  There are the usual – drugs, alcohol, sex, money, possessions, style of living.  But there are others, much more subtle – fear of failure, fear of success, self image (not good enough, too good), friends and even family. 
Like Zacchaeus and the unnamed man, I really do want to hear what Jesus is saying and I really do want to follow him, but maybe I am just not sure where to begin. 

What is the excitement and desire deep in my heart?  What is it that fills me with peace and calm and real excitement, maybe even a bit of challenge and risk?  What is it that will not go away?  No matter how big or small is the challenge – it is a challenge for me.  Now, what is it that is stopping me from moving forward?  No matter how big or small, no matter how seemingly trivial or important, it is holding me, or I it. 

The good news is that just as Jesus interrupted his journey for each of these men, giving them his full and undivided attention, Jesus will be faithful and present to me.  God has invited me and God is faithful and patient.  Dear Lord, that I may not turn away in sadness, but rather receive in joy!


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