• Sarah Raad


“All is mine, all is for me, the earth is mine, the heavens are mine, God is mine, and the Mother of my God is mine.” (Saint John of the Cross).

Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus

I have been reflecting on the story of Zacchaeus in the Gospel of Saint Luke (Luke 19:1-10).

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’ But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ 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 came to seek and to save the lost.’” (Luke 19:1-10).

Zacchaeus – like the apostle and evangelist Saint Matthew – was a tax collector. This is an important point in the story. In fact, he is identified as a “tax collector and a sinner”. And there is a reason for this…

In ancient Roman times, the tax collectors were responsible for collecting the exorbitant taxes that the Roman empire imposed on its people. Now, it is not the tax collector’s problem that the taxes were too high – that is the responsibility of the Roman Government. However, the problem resulted because the tax collectors collected MORE than the Roman government required of them and kept the additional proceeds for themselves. In this way the tax collectors were lining their own pockets out of the misery and fear of their fellow-Jews and it was for this reason that tax collectors of the Roman empire – like Saint Matthew and Zacchaeus – were hated because they were effectively thieves.

And I have been reflecting on this very much over the last few days. You see, two thousand years after this event, we are saying the name Zacchaeus (and Matthew) and still calling them tax collectors and sinners! And yet, for Saint Matthew and Zacchaeus “Today salvation has come to this house”…

I have been reflecting on this fact.

Zacchaeus and Saint Matthew are SAVED and yet how imperfect they really were. And I look to their example – because though I am not a saint, it is my dearest wish to become one…

Both men were not just a little bit sinful – they were terribly sinful. They were thieves. They were liars. They profited from the misery of others. They frightened people who could not pay their taxes!

I am like this… Perhaps I do not often steal money from another or take things that do not belong to me – but my sins are no less. I am riddled with sin. I confess my sins and have not the strength to endure a few short hours before succumbing to temptation again.

And yet – Zacchaeus had his weakness too… You see, Zacchaeus was short. In fact, he was so short that his only chance of seeing Christ was to climb a tree. And that – right there – that tree is the whole point of the story…

Have you recently climbed a tree? I must admit that I was a bit of a bookworm as a child and did not spend much of my time in trees, but my sons like to tree-climb and I often watch them doing this. When you climb a tree, you must first lift your legs up high and taking a good handle of a branch, you must haul yourself up by your arms! While you are doing this, the bark of the tree digs into your hands, and you must make sure that you balance appropriately, or you will fall out of the tree. It is difficult to perch in there in a comfortable way and perhaps Zacchaeus had to sit up there in the hot sun for a long time waiting for Christ, while those people who detested him shouted abuse because he was a tax-collector.

But – the story shows – Zacchaeus was willing to do whatever it took to see God. He bore insult and discomfort and later – after his encounter with Christ – he GAVE away the very money that had made him despised…

And it is upon this that I have been reflecting over the last few days…

Because all that was required was for Zacchaeus to climb a tree - God did the rest -Christ came to HIM and SAVED HIM... "‘Today salvation has come to this house..."

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face said, “Jesus has attracted us together, although by different ways; together He has raised us above all the fragile things of this world whose image passes away. He has placed, so to speak, all things under our feet. Like Zachaeus, we climbed a tree to see Jesus. .. . Then we could say with Saint John of the Cross: ‘All is mine, all is for me, the earth is mine, the heavens are mine, God is mine, and the Mother of my God is mine.’”

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And so, because I know that “‘…God is mine, and the Mother of my God is mine.’” I follow the example of Zacchaeus - despite my own sinfulness - and call out to my Beloved, because He is just ahead of me on the road... Waiting for me to claim Him as MINE...

For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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