Being Different Gave Zacchaeus a Special Perspective

Being Different Gave Zacchaeus a Special Perspective

Homily for the 15th Sunday of the Holy Cross (30 January 2000, 2022)

Luke 19:1-10

 Every year, as we come close to the beginning of Great Lent, we read the familiar story of Zacchaeus from St Luke’s Gospel.  Part of the greatness of the Bible is that we can always find something new and fresh, even in a story we have read 20 or 40 or 60 times.  This year, I was struck by the special circumstance of Zacchaeus’ being a short man.

A76E4E34-EA59-48C7-A037-D781DBD0FC00Being short did two things for Zacchaeus:  it gave him a special perspective on things—a unique point of view; and it also made him different from most of the other people.

These two things are actually connected.  People who are different from the majority often have a special point of view because of their situation—whatever it is:  being short in a crowd of tall people, being a person of color in a country full of Anglos, being an adult in a group of children, for instance.

Such a person not only has a different point of view; he or she also has to find a special place to see and understand what’s going on.  Remember that Zacchaeus wasn’t just curious; he wanted to learn something.  He was trying to see who Jesus was, not just trying to see Jesus.  He had to climb a tree to do this.  But then Jesus saw him—and saw who he was—and decided to visit his house.

People began to complain then, of course, that Zacchaeus was a sinner and Jesus shouldn’t associate with him.  People always complain about other people who are different, and they often end up connecting being different with being a sinner and a bad person and unworthy of association with the Lord.  How often do whites assume that Blacks or Mexicans are criminals, just because they look different?  How often do Americans think Arabs are terrorists, just because they are different?  In fact, the “sin” of most minorities is simply being different from the majority, or just being “not like us.”

But Jesus treats people differently, and He teaches us and challenges us to do as He does.  Jesus didn’t look at Zacchaeus’ lack of height, or at his position as a tax collector, or at his wealth.  Jesus let Zacchaeus speak, and Jesus listened, and He saw the faith and goodness in Zacchaeus’ heart.  Then He told the complainers that “salvation has come to this house, for the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.”

Like Jesus, we have to look and listen beyond the surface of people who are different from us.  We should not be quick to judge them.  We should remember that the Lord seeks the lost to come to their houses and into their lives to give them salvation.  And we should remember that in one way or another all of us are lost, all of us are different.  And all of us need salvation.

From our own perspectives we must find ways to see who Jesus is and to let Jesus see who we are, so that He can listen to our stories and come into our lives.  And we must always give thanks and praise and glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever and to ages of ages.


Father James Graham

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