He wanted to see what Jesus was like, but he was a short man and could not see him
because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up a sycamore tree. From there
he would be able to see Jesus, who was going to pass that way. When Jesus came
to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for I must
stay at your house today.” So Zaccheus climbed down and received him joyfully.
All the people who saw it began to grumble, and said, “He has gone as a guest to the house
of a sinner.” But Zaccheus spoke to Jesus, “Half of what I own, Lord, I will give to the poor,
and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back four times as much.” Looking at him Jesus
said, “Salvation has come to this house today, for he is also a true son of Abraham. The Son
of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
Today’s readings present two men who serve as excellent role models, though for very
different reasons. Eleazar is a community leader, respected by all. He is offered a chance
to fake a sacrifice to the Greek gods and avoid torture and martyrdom, but he refuses so
that he will not lead others astray. Zacchaeus, on the other hand, is an outcast, a tax
collector known for collecting more than his due. After encountering Jesus, by climbing a
tree along Jesus’ path, Zacchaeus changes his life and decides to lie justly, giving back
more than he has taken.
Most of us are a mixture of Eleazar and Zacchaeus. We do many good things and have
earned the respect of our friends and neighbors. But we also have flaws, sinful behaviors
for which we need to repent. We too need conversion so that people will not be led astray
by our actions. May we have the courage of Eleazar and the humility of Zacchaeus.
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