Bible Meditation: He Was a Tiny Man

Sunday October 30, 2022, four texts will be read.
First reading Book of Wisdom (Wis 11, 22 – 12, 2).
Psalm 144.
Second reading Second Letter to the Thessalonians (2 Th 1, 11 – 2, 2).
The Gospel according to Saint Luke (Lk 19, 1-10).

Luke 19, 1-10

At that time, having entered the city of Jericho, Jesus was passing through it.
Now there was a man named Zacchaeus;
he was the chief tax collector, and he was a rich person.
He was trying to see who Jesus was, but he couldn’t because of the crowd,
because he was short.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore
to see Jesus who was going to pass by.
Arrived there, Jesus looked up and said to him:
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly:
today I must go and stay in your house. »
Quickly, he descended and received Jesus with joy.
Seeing this, everyone complained: “He went to stay with a man who is a sinner. »
Zacchaeus, standing up, addressed the Lord:
“Behold, Lord, half of my wealth I give to the poor,
and if I have wronged anyone, I will pay him back four times as much. »
Then Jesus said of him, “Today salvation has come to this house,
for he too is a son of Abraham.
Indeed, the Son of Man came to seek and to save
what was lost. »

Zacchaeus, his name, his call

Zacchaeus is small. Rarely do the evangelists provide the physical measurements of the people Jesus meets on his way. This detail can be interpreted symbolically as a way of emphasizing that Zacchaeus is at the bottom of the moral ladder of the society of his time. In addition to his small size, he indeed combines all the possible faults: chief of the tax collectors of the region, he is considered, rather rightly according to his own admission (“if I have wronged someone”), as a dishonest prevaricator doubled as a collaborator with the Roman occupier…

In short, he is a rich man in the most pejorative sense, a man lost in the eyes of Jewish law as of all his contemporaries. What Jesus confirms in his own way, declaring that he came to save “what was lost”.

Behind this blackboard hides a single quality: its name! Indeed, Zacchaeus can literally be translated as “the Lord remembers”. And in fact, Jesus will remember him… Quite an unusual memory exercise insofar as nothing indicates that they met before.

Jericho, a city of memory

Except that the story takes place in Jericho which is a city steeped in memories. It was through her that the conquest of the Land promised by God to his people had begun, in other words the starting point for the fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham and his descendants (Genesis 17, 7) of which Zacchaeus is the one of the recipients, which Jesus will not fail to point out.

Better still, Jericho is also the place where a single person was saved from the general massacre following the conquest, the prostitute Rahab (Joshua 6, 22-25) who also appears in the list of Jesus’ ancestors (Matthew 1, 5)! Therefore, it is undoubtedly permissible to compare Rahab and Zacchaeus, two people of bad reputation (a prostitute and a publican!) whom the Lord “remembers”, a few centuries apart, and whom he visits and saves in the nose and beard of “good people”…

The solemn commitment of a “standing” man

Jesus “look up” towards this infrequent man declaring to him that he must go “to stay in his house”: in Christic language, this means that he invites himself into the very heart of Zacchaeus, provoking a profound shock in him. Perhaps he feels truly loved and considered for the first time in his life? In any case, he welcomes her with enthusiasm, thus practicing the duty of hospitality following the example of Abraham (Genesis 18).

By this very fact, Zacchaeus proves himself a worthy son of the patriarch. From then on, his in-depth transformation takes place and materializes through the donation of half of his goods to the poor, which constitutes a considerable effort for a “man of money”. He will also compensate for the scams he has made throughout his professional activity by returning four times more. Repentance demands reparation.

A solemn pledge that Zacchaeus proclaims while standing ” upright “, the “head held high” according to one translation. The little man perched in a somewhat grotesque manner on his tree has become a giant addressing his Lord with eyes to eyes, heart to heart. Such is the salvation received from Christ.

Brother Irenaeus is a Benedictine monk at the Abbey of Chevetogne, Belgium. This community brings together monks who pray according to the Roman and Byzantine rite.

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Bible Meditation: He Was a Tiny Man

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