Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today, Zacchaeus

Most of us, I think, are familiar with the story of Zacchaeus. It’s a popular tale for sharing with children because of the imagery. Zacchaeus was the curious, but short, tax collector who climbed a tree in order to get a glimpse of Jesus. Jesus spotted him and, much to the scandal of the Pharisees (for tax collectors were considered by the Pharisees to be great sinners) invited himself to dine at Zacchaeus’s house.

What struck me on reading this passage today was the urgency of Our Lord’s response. “Zacchaeus, come down IMMEDIATELY. I MUST stay at your house TODAY.” (Luke 19:5, emphasis added) Zacchaeus had received an extraordinary grace that led him to climb the sycamore tree. He had responded to that grace, but it was a brief moment that wouldn’t last. Jesus recognized that he was looking at a soul on the cusp of conversion. We have phrases in English that fit the moment: “strike while the iron is hot” and “make hay while the sun is shining.” In other words, seize the opportunity of the moment before it passes.

Jesus seized the opportunity to step through the opening and pull Zacchaeus out of himself, and Zacchaeus responded with an act of great generosity and renunciation of sin. “TODAY salvation has come to this house,” Jesus declared (Luke 19:9, emphasis added). We can imagine the joy of the occasion.

As Christian disciples, we must strive to be prompt in responding to the gentle prods of the Holy Spirit. Zacchaeus was open to the good news on that day in a way that he would not have been later in the week. Collecting his contact information and promising to follow up in a few days would have delivered the hammer strike after the iron had cooled and was less malleable. Annanias had to respond promptly to complete Paul’s conversion. Ambrose had to be there to complete Augustine’s conversion.

We have to respond TODAY, both for ourselves and for others. Zacchaeus was saved on the day that he opened the door of his soul because Jesus came through that door on the same day. We are both Zacchaeus and bearers of Christ’s love. Our response is required TODAY. Tomorrow might be too late.

{Disclaimer: My own response record is pathetic. That doesn’t discredit what I’ve written above. It just means that I need to open myself up more than I have in the past.}

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