Zacchaeus was a businessman, a very rich and lucrative businessman. In fact, he was the CEO of a consortium of debt collectors, money launderers and profiteers, despised by the general population, entertained by the rich and famous. In practice, popular opinion polls would have overwhelmingly suggested that Zacchaeus worshiped a false god and should be shunned by hard-working, simple and honest folk! Add to this, Our Blessed Lord reminds us that it is difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Difficult, yes, but not impossible! So, how was this man, rich in the eyes of the world, to become rich in the eyes of heaven? Before we start pointing fingers and drawing conclusions as to who such an individual might be, let us be clear. Zacchaeus is you and me!
How easy it is for all of us to hide in the crowd at times, to hide behind layers of walls, hide behind or positions, even lost in an online anonymous crowd of statistics and made-up usernames. Christ himself would never let anything outside of Himself, the crowd or popular opinion to dictate to Him who He was. He would never allow the crowd to force Him into giving His life. Often, He would retreat to mountaintops, and quiet places to pray. And He would encourage His followers to do likewise - to get away from the crowds, our laptops and smartphones! How long do you think you could survive without wifi???
Our Blessed Lord does not want to be treated like a celebrity. He is not in the crowds signing autographs and posing for selfies. He is searching out for sinners - sinners who want to hear His voice, His words of mercy and who want to experience forgiveness and healing. Caught in the tsunami of a crowd going in every direction, how does God draw out the sinner?
How does the story end? Christ invites Himself into our homes, into the messy circumstances of our lives. But on our part, we have to always make sure that the door is open and there is a place and space for Him in our home, a home that may be messy inside but it keeps the crazy crowds outside.
And if we find ourselves like we do now, gathered around this altar surrounded by sinners and with the world outside thumping at our door trying to get in our mind, know that each one of us has already caught the attention of Christ's mercy. From here, whether He's invited or not, He wants to go home with you today, regardless if you have your home tidy or in disarray. Remember, the first home Christ had was a manger, a stable!
The Sunday Mass we celebrate today, opens the door. Allow Christ to pass through the crowd and enter into the sanctuary of your home. And as our guest, let our response also be mercy - mercy especially to those, who because of our rash opinions, we have often deprived, one way or another, of their God-given dignity that no one can rob. This way we lift up everyone to that opportunity for human virtue that God's grace promises to every sinner.