I think it can be difficult to find appropriate and
enlightening messages from Scripture when we are entirely familiar
with certain readings, such as today’s reading about Zacchaeus.
Personally, as I read about Zacchaeus this time, a new perspective
dawned on me. Zacchaeus had plenty of wealth, enabling him to live
a comfortable lifestyle. However, he was anything but comfortable.
He was unsatisfied by his wealthy lifestyle or else he would not
have been so eager to change his ways and immediately offer up his
possessions to the poor.
We can easily relate to Zacchaeus because in our culture we tend
to find security in our wealth. The desire for wealth captures the
essence of the understood "American dream." For those
of us in the US, it is the idea we use to describe our country and
our people. It is also the description that we want countries around
the world to use when thinking about the U.S. The story of Zacchaeus,
however, demonstrates the internal dissatisfaction we feel if we
attain such ‘goals.’ Instead of providing fulfillment,
as our culture firmly believes it will do, wealth leaves people
feeling empty and searching for something more. Fortunately, due
to Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit education, we can recognize
that the drive to follow on the social justice path is stronger
than wealth because working on behalf of the oppressed people is
the work of Christ. End of story.
While committing to a life of service to others can be a scary,
intimidating thought, we must allow ourselves to be strengthened
by Biblical examples, such as the story of Zacchaeus. Although it
is easy to get wrapped up in consumerism and difficult to be counter-cultural
in our decisions, the Christian teaching is entirely based on loving
and serving one another. Today’s responsorial psalm reminds
us that “the Lord upholds us.” No matter how challenging
the Christian message is to live in solidarity with the poor, today’s
readings remind us that it is with the poor where we will be most
Jesus, referring to Zacchaeus in this particular reading but also
to humanity in general, says that he came to “seek and save
what was lost.” I think Jesus was talking about saving “community.”
He recognized that Zacchaeus had a good heart and was willing to
live in solidarity with the poor by giving up his once prized possessions,
but he needed encouragement. We are drawn to possessions but they
often isolate people from one another. They create barriers and
competition. Consequently, wealth-driven lifestyles are difficult
because we need one another. Humans are made to live in community.
We find strength from support systems. Jesus knows the danger that
results from material wealth. He strengthened Zacchaeus to let go
of his attachment to his riches and grab on to his need for community.
May we too find strength from Jesus in order to be counter-culture
in our thoughts and actions in order to live a more genuinely Christian