When was the last time you climbed a tree? I actually can say that it was June for me. I did not want to see at that moment–I wanted to be seen. It was for a group photo in South Africa and we had found a really funk tree in which to pose. In today’s Gospel, Zacchaeus climbed a tree to see Jesus. A chief tax collector, he did not seem to let his position keep him from his desire to catch a mere glimpse of this man who was creating such a buzz around town. He was not assertive enough to push his way to the front perhaps or so detested that he did not want to make such a fuss. Instead, like a child, he climbed a tree. When was the last time you wanted to see Jesus so much that you did something extraordinary? Something that put you out on a limb?
This story is one of my favourite Gospel readings for a few reasons. First off, it shows how we must be ready to free ourselves of our inhibitions to see Christ. Secondly, we see Jesus’ beautiful response to that effort: He knew exactly where Zacchaeus was and greeted him there for all to see. Then he urges him to come quickly down for he will be joining him at his home that very day. Jesus wants to be our guest at any given opportunity. He wants us to know him.
Zacchaeus is moved to action by his personal encounter with Christ. He is transformed. He is released from his shame and given a new chance to be in the world. He chooses a new path.
Wouldn’t you agree that it is a great story? Well worth climbing a tree!