31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

FROM WHAT DO WE NEED SAVING?

By Emily VanBerkum (Student at the Faculty of Theology)

This week’s gospel reading is about Jesus’ gift of salvation. During Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, he stops briefly in Jericho and encounters Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector, sitting in a sycamore tree. Jesus calls Zacchaeus down from the tree and boldly invites himself into Zacchaeus’ home. Jesus’ mercy and generosity understandably upset the crowd since they branded Zacchaeus a sinner because of his greed for money and earthly possession. Of course, this is not the first instance in the Gospels in which Jesus’ actions confuse his followers. Yet in this instance, Zacchaeus repents. He blurs the boundaries between the stereotypes of a tax collector and a man who genuinely desires to heed Jesus’ invitation to discipleship.

Jesus accepts this repentance by declaring that, “Today salvation has come to his house.” This answers why Jesus chose Zacchaeus as an unlikely host. In other words, this seemingly impossible act of welcome is a prime example of the Son of Man’s mission to seek out the lost and save them through the awesome gift of salvation. But from what exactly did Zacchaeus need saving? Zacchaeus straddles the two worlds that many of us struggle to define in our lives. Zacchaeus is a wealthy man who gained a reputation for sinfulness because of his attachment to worldly possessions. Zacchaeus needed to find the confidence to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation and he did so in practical terms by giving half of his goods to the poor. By welcoming Jesus into his home, Zacchaeus knew that Jesus had also entered his heart.

Like Zacchaeus, we discover that clinging to worldly possessions and wealth comes at great expense. Our hearts must be open to God if we are to receive his gifts of redemption and grace freely. What Zacchaeus was willing to “give up” could not compare to his truly life changing decision to be saved by Jesus. What worldly possessions distract you from fully appreciating Jesus’ gift of salvation?