Zacchaeus and Lent

The tree Zacchaeus climbed to see Jesus

After reading the section about Zacchaeus in the book, Jesus, A Pilgrimage  by James Martin, S.J., I gained a renewed perspective on Lent, so I offer these excerpts for your reflection and strongly recommend this book.

“Zacchaeus is perched high in a sycamore tree, straining to see Jesus…on account of the crowd…and his short stature. … For the people of Jericho, the sight of a diminutive tax collector sitting in the tree probably made them laugh derisively…. To be chief tax collector would have brought both wealth and contempt. … None of this deters Zacchaeus … who is literally going out on a limb… to try to see who Jesus was. … Jesus calls out, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today’. …  Jesus’s practice of sharing meals with all kinds of persons [is] a public statement of welcome and worthiness. … Jesus seems delighted by Zacchaeus’s willingness to do something out of the ordinary to find salvation. … Everyone, this includes the disciples- grumbles.  Zacchaeus stood his ground. … Notice that he already knows what he needs to do. … ‘Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.’… Jesus pronounces a blessing on Zacchaeus and states that salvation has come to his house.”

Jesus, A Pilgrimage by Fr. James Martin, S.J.

Regardless of his reputation or the crowds’ reaction, Zacchaeus wants to know who this Jesus is.

Fr. Martin poses this question, “How can the crowd prevent us from seeing the Lord?”   “Sometimes people overwhelm us with demands. We all need time away …with solitude and prayer.  The crowd can pressure us to go along with … popular opinion…refusing to think that things could be different. The crowd can make us fearful of rejection … hindering us from change. The crowd may actively oppose our moving closer to God. Your desire for a holier life might be mocked, whether in your hometown or in your home. Many of us live in fear of being seen as uncool, foolish, gullible, unsophisticated and consequently rejected. Zacchaeus shows us choices…to see ‘who Jesus was’ because he knows that that’s the most important thing in life- to know who Jesus is.”  How might we ‘go out on a limb’ this Lent?

I think Zacchaeus encourages us to go ‘out on the limb’, seeking  the Lord through prayer, readied for Jesus to come to our ‘house’.  Everything else follows.


A Moment to Ponder“A Moment to Ponder” is a faith blog written by Carol Lavenz and posted under the Adult Faith Formation tab on theworker.org.

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