Lectio Divina: Luke 19:1-10
1) Opening prayer
Father of all that is good,
keep us faithful in serving You,
for to serve you is our lasting joy.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Luke 19:1-10
Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town and suddenly a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance. He was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He kept trying to see where Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see Him for the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and spoke to him, "Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today."
And he hurried down and welcomed Him joyfully.
They all complained when they saw what was happening. "He has gone to stay at a sinner's house," they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, "Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount."
And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost."
• In today’s Gospel, we reach the end of a long journey which began in chapter 9 (Lk 9:51). During the journey, it has not been easy to know where Jesus is going. Now the geography is clear. Jesus reaches Jericho, the city of the palm trees, in the Valley of the Jordan. This is the last stop of pilgrims before going up toward Jerusalem. He went to Jericho where the long road of exodus in the desert ended. Jesus’ exodus has also ended. In entering Jericho, Jesus meets a blind man who wanted to see Him (Lk 18:35-43). Now, going out of the city, He meets Zacchaeus, a tax collector. He also wants to see Him. Both the blind man and the Publican are excluded from Jewish society. Both bother and disturb the people. The blind man disturbed people because he was shouting to Jesus. The Publican incurs people’s hostility because he collects taxes. Both are accepted by Jesus.
• Luke 19:1-2: Jesus enters Jericho and crosses the city where he sees “a man whose name was Zacchaeus, head of the tax collectors and a rich man”. The tax collector was the person who collected the public taxes on selling and buying of merchandise. As head tax collector, Zacchaeus was closely linked to the Roman government which dominated the Israel. Since the more religious Jews believed their king to be God, they regarded Rome’s dominion as ungodly. Anyone who collaborates with the Romans sins against God. Thus, the soldiers who served in the Roman army and tax collectors like Zacchaeus were excluded and avoided because they were considered traitorous and impure.
• Luke 19:3-4: The attitude of Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus wants to see Jesus. Being small, he ran ahead and climbed up a tree and waited for Jesus to go by. He really had a great desire to see Jesus. Before, in the parable of poor Lazarus and the rich man (Lk 16: 19-31), Jesus had said that it was truly difficult for a rich person to be converted. However, in Zaccheus, we see a rich man who does not close himself up in his riches. Zacchaeus wants something more. Certainly, an adult who climbs a tree does not care much about the opinion of others. Something more important moves him. He wants to open the door for poor Lazarus.
• Luke 19:5-7: Attitude of Jesus, reaction of the people and of Zacchaeus. Seeing Zacchaeus in the tree, Jesus does not ask, nor does He demand, anything. He only responds to the desire of the man and says, “Zacchaeus come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your home today!” Zacchaeus gets down and receives Jesus, in his house, with great joy. All complained, “He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house!” Luke says that all complained. Jesus is alone in His attitude of accepting the excluded, especially Roman collaborators . But Jesus does not care about the criticism. He goes to the house of Zacchaeus and defends him from the criticism. Rather than calling him sinner, He calls him “son of Abraham” (Lk 19:9).
• Luke 19:8: Decision of Zacchaeus. “Look, Lord, I am going to give half of my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount!” This is the conversion produced in Zacchaeus because of the acceptance that he received from Jesus. To give back four times was what the law prescribed to do in certain cases (Ex 22:1;). To give half of my possessions to the poor was the novelty which contact with Jesus produced in him. In fact, sharing was taking place.
• Luke 19:9-10: Final word of Jesus. “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a son of Abraham”. The interpretation of the Law by means of the ancient tradition excluded the tax collectors from the race of Abraham. Jesus says that He comes to seek and save what was lost. The Kingdom is for all. Nobody can be excluded. By denouncing unjust divisions, Jesus opens a space for a new way of living directed by the values of truth, justice and love.
• Son of Abraham. "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a son of Abraham!” By being a descendant of Abraham, all nations of earth will be blessed (Gen 12:3; 22:18). It was very important for Luke’s communities, formed by Christians of both Jewish and pagan origin, that Jesus calls Zacchaeus “son of Abraham”. For we find the confirmation that in Jesus, God was fulfilling the promises made to Abraham, addressed to all nations. Gentiles are also sons of Abraham and heirs of the promises. Jesus accepts those who were not accepted. He offers a place to those who do not have it. He receives as brothers and sisters people whom the religion and the government excluded. Here is a list of those outcasts in who found acceptance in Jesus: :
- immoral: the prostitutes and the sinners (Mt 21:31-32; Mk 2:15; Lk 7:37-50; Jn 8:2-11)
- heretic: pagans and Samaritans (Lk 7:2-10; 17:16; Mk 7:24-30; Jn 4:7-42),
- impure: lepers and possessed (Mt 8:2-4; Lk 17:12-14; Mk 1:25-26)
- marginalized: women, children and the sick (Mk 1:32; Mt 8:16;19:13-15; Lk 8: 2-3)
- fighters: publicans and soldiers (Lk 18:9-14;19:1-10);
- the poor: the people of the place and the poor who had no power (Mt 5:3; Lk 6:20; Mt 11:25-26).
4) Personal questions
• How does our community accept people who are despised and marginalized? Can we, like Jesus, perceive people’s problems and give them attention?
· How do we perceive salvation entering into our house and our community? The welcoming tenderness of Jesus produced a total change in the life of Zacchaeus. Is the tenderness of our community producing some change in the neighborhood? Where?
5) Concluding prayer
With all my heart I seek You,
do not let me stray from Your commandments.
In my heart, I treasure Your promises
and seek to avoid sinning against You. (Ps 119:10-11)