To read the texts click on the texts: Wis11:22-12:2; 2 Thess 1:11-2:2; Lk 19:1-10
God is available and patient. If there are two qualities of God that stand out in the readings of today, they are availability and patience.
The first reading from Wisdom stresses that it is God’s compassion and patience that makes God overlook all the shortcomings of humans. It is God’s availability that makes him accessible to those who seek and search for him. God does not hide from the earnest seeker and he is there, waiting to be found.
The story of Zacchaeus’ encounter with Jesus, which is exclusive to the Gospel of Luke, brings out both these qualities of God. It is the last encounter of Jesus with “outcasts” before he enters Jerusalem. It takes place when Jesus is passing through Jericho, on his way to Jerusalem. Zacchaeus is the name of the tax collector who, Luke informs us, is “rich” He desired to see Jesus, though we do not know why. However, there were obstacles to his desire. The first was the crowd and the second, his short stature. These are interconnected. If there was no crowd, his short stature would not have mattered. And, if he wwas tall, the crowd would not have mattered. Zacchaeus did not allow these obstacles to hinder him because his desire was genuine. He took steps to overcome these obstacles. He did what no grown man at his time would normally do: he ran. And even worse: he climbed a tree. He was willing to face ridicule and being mocked by the crowd in order to do what he had set about to do. He gave up his self-importance and his dignity. All that mattered to him was to see and to encounter Jesus. He was an earnest seeker and his search was rewarded. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus but it was Jesus who really saw him.
On coming to the place where Zacchaeus was perched, Jesus called to him. The call was a call to intimacy and companionship. It was a call to stay at Zacchaeus’ home and be his guest. It was a call to friendship. Zacchaeus’ response was dramatic, especially since Jesus did not ask for a conversion or change. Jesus made no judgement about the past or present behaviour of Zacchaeus. Jesus did not call Zacchaeus to repentance. Jesus made no demands at all. The response came from the deepest recesses of Zacchaeus’ heart. It was an inner transformation that manifested itself in his repentant action and in his becoming a whole new creation. From that moment, Zacchaeus’ life was changed.
This transformation and change was the result of having encountered, even in that brief moment of contact with Jesus, total acceptance, recognition, and unconditional love. This is the love that the first reading speaks about. This is the love that loves everything that exists. This is the love that loathes nothing and no one. This is the love that sees, in every person, the image of God. This is the love that does not attempt to correct the faults of others but which results in persons correcting their faults because they have experienced this love.
Since God loves first, the exhortation of Paul to the Thessalonians, in the second reading of today, is to live lives worthy of this love and the call to which they are called. It is a call to manifest the same love that they have received so that through it, they may be able to reveal the available and patient God made visible in Jesus.
So many are seeking for God today and cannot seem to find him. The irony is that God is everywhere if we but open our eyes, ears, and hearts to see. The irony is that God wants to be found. There are a few requirements that each of us must keep in mind if we are to find God. The first of these is a genuine desire to see, to encounter, and to touch God. We will know if this desire is genuine if we, like Zacchaeus, do not give up in the face of obstacles but instead, persevere. Our desire is genuine if we do not let external obstacles get us down. It is genuine if we will not wait till tomorrow, but are determined to find God “today”. It is true, however, like in the case of Zacchaeus, that we do not really find God. Rather, God finds us. When God does find us, we must be attentive and listen rather than be anxious to speak. God will make no demands of us. God will not ask us to change. God will simply keep revealing that, in Jesus, he is unconditional love. An experience of this love in Jesus will lead to a transformation in our lives like it led to a transformation in the life of Zacchaeus. Like Zacchaeus, we will surprise, not only others but even ourselves with the response we will make to God and others. We will become more generous, more loving, more concerned, and more willing to give so that others may have and live.