My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
On this day, the Sunday before the beginning of the Lenten Triodion, we commemorate the repentance of the tax-collector, the Holy Apostle Zacchaeus, he who desired to behold Christ.
We are called to follow the example of Zacchaeus in three ways: First, in his determination to see Christ and to hear Him. He let nothing stand in his way; even his own physicial limitations, his short stature, was not an excuse for him. He used the opportunities at his disposal to overcome the difficulties he face, and all this for the sake of beholding Christ.
Secondly, we are to follow the example of Zacchaeus in his hospitality. Having been seen and addressed by Christ, Zacchaeus was called by Christ, and told that Christ desired that day to abide in his house. Zacchaeus without delay provided hospitality for the Lord, paying no mind to the grumbling and the murmuring of those around him.
Thirdly, we are to follow the example of Zacchaeus in his repentance, for not only does he turn from his former life of greed and taking unjustly from others, but he now restores all that he had taken wrongly, and this fourfold. His repentance is not only a repentance of word, but also of deed.
And our Lord, in his grace, accepted Zacchaeus’ resolution, saying: This day is salvation come to this house.
Let us just briefly look these three qualities of Zacchaeus, given to us as example, and as we look, let us ask for the grace to understand how we might conform ourselves to these qualities in our daily lives.
As we know, at that time our Lord was passing through Jericho, and many people were following Him; among them, of course, was Zacchaeus. Now, Zacchaeus was a well-known public ﬁgure, known unfortunately for extortion and iniquity, because he was the chief among the tax collectors. He did not simply hold the position of publican, but he was lover of money and material things, desirous of amassing much gold.
Now, Zacchaeus had heard of Christ, that He was a Worker of great miracles, One Who performed most glorious deeds, and that His words and teachings were leading many away from sin and turning them towards salvation; and Zacchaeus desired to see Him, who He was, but he was hindered from seeing Him by the multitude of people, because of his short stature.
Approaching the problem with determination, he went up into a sycamore tree. Now, in contrast to the new world sycamore tree, which can grow exceptionally tall, the particular kind of tree that is called a sycamore tree here is fairly low and humble, it is a type of fig tree, and it bears bunches of rather small figs.
Zacchaeus, then, goes up into this sycamore tree along side the way, because Christ was going to pass by.
Zacchaeus had heretofore been blinded in his soul by the passion of avarice. But now, with the eyes of his body, he seeks with determination to behold the light of Christ, the Light Which is Christ, and which would illuminate him completely.
Here we see the determination of Zacchaeus.
And then as our Lord came to that place, looking up, He saw Zacchaeus, and called out to him, saying: Zacchaeus, make haste and come down; for this day I must abide in thine house.
The Lord now sees Zacchaeus with His own human eyes. But even before this He saw him with divine eyes, and He knew that Zacchaeus was eager to believe and to convert from vice to virtue.
In the same way, God always anticipates us, if only we look to Him with diligence and have recourse to Him with fervour. He calls you, too, in the same way: Make haste and come to Me! For this day I must abide in thine house.
The Lord calls Zacchaeus, calmly and unassumingly, and draws Zacchaeus to Himself with His call. Leaving behind all the other men of Jericho, the Lord comes under the roof of a publican, not because Zacchaeus was a man of blameless conduct, but because his household would be blessed by His coming, and his house a dwelling place of the immaculate Lamb Himself, Christ.
The Lord calls each and every one of us today to the same hospitality. Do we welcome Christ into our homes, into our families, into our hearts? Is the Lord Almighty a welcome resident – not merely a causal guest – in our lives? When we hear the call of the Lord, do we do as Zacchaeus did and make haste to come to Him, and receive Him with joy? Do we remain undaunted in the face of the murmuring and derision of the world around us?
Let us act in the same manner as Zacchaeus. With eagerness and joy let us receive Christ in our hearts when we are called; and there is never a time when the Master does not call us; therefore, let us not be lazy. Let us not sabotage our own salvation by spurning the present day and waiting for tomorrow. “Make haste and come down; for this day I must abide in thine house.”
This is the hospitality of Zacchaeus.
Then “Zacchaeus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold.”
O, the swiftness of the grace of repentance! Zacchaeus had only just taken the Lord under his roof, but already he gives half of his goods to the poor as charity; the other half he kept, not for his own possession, but to repay fourfold what he had acquired wrongfully.
How many of us, who have long professed that Christ dwells with us, who have long professed to keep the faith, who have long professed to live the life of grace, how many of us can say that we have brought forth such fruits of repentance as did Zacchaeus on his very first day of following the Lord?
And yet we must, for therein lies our salvation, as our Lord says: “This day is salvation come to this house…”
Each of us, my friends, is like unto Zacchaeus, short in spiritual stature. Though we are still dragged down among earthly things, we must seek to see Christ clearly and properly, seek Him with determination. But we cannot see Him unless with will and determination we climb up and away from all things that keep us from Him; that is to say, unless we transcend earthly things and rise to the things of heaven, we shall not see Christ. We must, my friends, transcend these earthly things and climb up the tree, the tree of grace; take up our cross – the life-giving Cross, so that we may see Christ. Then Christ will see us, and call us to Himself and will make His dwelling with us; for in this way do believers themselves become the house of God.
Knowing this, my friends, let us today – right now – receive Christ with a joyful welcome, so that each one of us may hear the words: This day is salvation come to this house.
Determination, hospitality, and repentance.