“O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” (Wis. 11: 26- 12: 1)
My son is tall. At the age of fourteen he stands better than six feet tall as an eighth grader. He has always been interested in his height and has longed for the day when he would grow taller than me. That day has come, and now, I have a child who looks down on me, if ever so slightly. As a competitive child, he believes he has achieved a certain goal and reached a particular stature beyond his physical size, just by virtue of his height.
In the Gospel, we hear the story of Zacchaeus, the wealthy tax collector. This was a man of small stature, such that he had to climb a tree to see Jesus since he could not see over the crowds. His stature, was also small among the Jews, by virtue of the fact that he was a tax collector. As a of that profession, he would have been loathed as a scoundrel not only because he was in league with the Roman government and collecting taxes for them, but also, no doubt, because he got rich off the backs of those from whom he collected those sums.
But, Zacchaeus strongly desires to see Jesus and so he climbs the tree. Upon meeting him, Jesus, rather than rebuke him for what he has done to those less fortunate in his community, seeks the intimate arrangement of dining with him. Scripture tells us the others gathered to see Jesus were “grumbling” about this exchange and rightly so. Why would Jesus seek to dine with this scoundrel? Why would he lower his stature? And yet, Jesus invites him none-the less. Zacchaeus is like a kid in his reaction. At Jesus’ invitation, he climbs down the tree in a rush and “receives him with joy.”
The reading from Wisdom gives us some insight into Jesus reception of Zacchaeus. The readings paints a picture of who God is in relation to his creation. It tells us, “For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made” (Wis. 11: 24). It is out of that life generating, creative love that God operates. Earlier Wisdom states, “But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people's sins that they may repent” (11: 23). Repentance. That is the key. Jesus receives Zacchaeus so that Zacchaeus may receive the mercy of God that reforms hearts and creates the opportunity for him to repent. Jesus calls him, reaches out to him, so that he may convert his heart over to the love of God. And it is in his repentance that his stature before God grows.
And so, we can ask ourselves, What is our stature before God? How tall are we? Where do we need to receive Jesus with joy? Where is God’s love and mercy calling us into repentance?