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"Quick, come down!" A reflection on the life-changing encounter of Jesus and Zacchaeus

Julian Paparella

October 31, 2019
Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage of Jesus by James Tissot. Source: Wikimedia Commons
“Quick, come down!” (Click here to listen!)
Sunday, November 3, 2019 – Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
In the Gospel for this Sunday, we witness an encounter between Jesus and a well-to-do tax collector named Zacchaeus. Tax collectors were despised by their fellow Jews because they were often dishonest, but Jesus despises nobody, and on this particular day Jesus changed Zacchaeus’ whole life. Zacchaeus climbs up a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus as He enters the city of Jericho. Zacchaeus is short, so he climbs up to get a better look. Jesus sees him there, hanging from the sycamore, and cries out, “Zaccheus, come down quickly! I must stay with you today.” Many of the onlookers grumble seeing Jesus heading to stay with a tax collector. But Jesus replies, “Today salvation has reached this man’s house… For the Son of Man came to seek and save what is lost” (Luke 19:1-10).
“I must stay with you today.” Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus were not what he expected. Zacchaeus could never have imagined climbing up the tree that moments later Jesus would come stay at his house! Jesus’ words to Zacchaeus are also His words to each one of us: “I must stay with you today.” Whether we’re having a good day or a bad day, whether we’re struggling or succeeding, Jesus comes to be with us. He wants to be with us. He wants us to be with Him so that He can spend every day with us and we can spend every day with Him. Zacchaeus’ life changed forever the day Jesus came to his home. Our lives change every time we welcome Jesus, who comes to us, seeks us out, looks up at us hanging in the tree, and calls out to us to come down quickly so He can stay with us. Jesus is the guest who brings God’s love into our hearts and our homes, who changes our lives every time we let Him in. “Come down quickly,” He says to each and every one of us. “I must stay with you today.”

Julian Paparella has contributed to Salt + Light Media since 2012. He served as an intern for many summers and currently studies theology at the Institut Catholique de Paris.