Luke 19: 1 - 10
Today’s gospel is a classic. Zacchaeus, that little guy in the tree, the one who lets Jesus crash at his place and eventually… his heart. This one always hits so hard because we are all Zacchaeus! The one Jesus himself personally seeks and singles out. The flawed sinner who’s still Christ’s beloved. The lost soul specifically saved by the Son of Man’s unique and healing mercy. We know it. We love it. It’s the best.
But the Jesus and Zacchaeus bromance is not the only thing going on in this story. In the midst of reconciliation and joy we look off to the side: “When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner” (Luke 19:7)”.
How many times have we heard this story and saw ourselves not in the rescued Zacchaeus, but in its description of a shallow and jealous “they”? How often are we the grumblers; the ones who look around our frustrating and fallen world and, with accidental arrogance, feel that we truly are above it? That we and not them – the tax collectors, the heretics, the Zacchaeus’s – are really the beloved of God.
Take a minute and challenge yourself. It’s easy to admire the living mercy of God, but it’s harder to truly rejoice in its saving of sinners. How nice is it to hear, but how hard it is live, the truth that Saint Augustine shared – “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
It reminds me of a challenging moment from Stephen Adly Guirgis’s play The Last Days of Judas Iscariot in which Jesus himself delivers this monologue to the audience:
“Right now, I am in Fallujah. I am in Darfur. I am on Sixty-third and Park having dinner with Ellen Barkin and Ron Perelman... Right now, I'm on Lafayette and Astor waiting to hit you up for change so I can get high. I'm taking a walk through the Rose Garden with George Bush. I'm helping Donald Rumsfeld get a good night's sleep...I was in that cave with Osama, and on that plane with Mohamed Atta...And what I want you to know is that your work has barely begun. And what I want you to trust is the efficacy of divine love if practiced consciously. And what I need you to believe is that if you hate who I love, you do not know me at all. And make no mistake, "Who I Love" is every last one. I am every last one. People ask of me: Where are you? Where are you?...Verily I ask of you to ask yourself: Where are you? Where are you?”
So today, try not to grumble! Let the people that usually annoy you instead sanctify you. Pray for someone you don’t particularly like, whether they’re Donald Trump, Tom Brady, or Mr. Dinkleberg down the street. Call the people you find hardest to love out of their sycamore trees. Open up your heart and remember that the atheists, elitists, druggies, internet blackmailers, and IRS agents are all the beloved of God too. Don’t grumble at God’s mercy. Be a part of it!
For the son of man has come to seek and to save what was lost! Which is all of you. Which is all of me. Which is all of us.