19 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10
There’s something in the Gospel today that is quite significant, but we usually skip right past it, since it’s in the first sentence: “Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through the town.”
Why should this Gospel story have meaning for us, aside from the salvation of the house of Zacchaeus, that clever little tax collector? First, tax collectors were collaborators with the might and power of Rome. They were seen as traitors to their people, stealing from them their hard earned gold and goods, unclean, sinners. And yet here was Jesus, once again, deigning to consort with this malefactor, even to the point of going into his house and staying there. The people began to complain and mutter at this effrontery of Jesus.
Second, Jesus grants salvation to this low-life! How can that be? Once again we find our Lord taking up with the worst classes of society, even disdaining the “good people” of the town. What did the tax collector do to gain salvation?
So in this little passage, we find that God’s grace was freely given and Zacchaeus acknowledges Jesus by given half of what he owns to the poor and paying back fourfold anyone he cheated.
But weren’t the walls of Jericho torn down by Joshua and the trumpets? What does Jericho have to do with this passage?
If we remember today’s other readings from Catholic Online, we find that they are about holy sites, the dwelling place of the Lord, God’s field and building, the foundation. Sturdy as the walls of Jericho were, they were no match for God’s people who forced them to crumble at the shout of the people. This is a foreshadowing of the message Jesus imparts time and time again: the place of worship does not matter…we are already in the courts of the house of the Lord. “The Son of man has nowhere to lay his head,” Jesus says in another passage. But he will stay in Jericho, at the home of a sinner, because “the Son of man has come to seek out and save what is lost.”
Isn’t this the message? Foundations made by humankind do not last. Temples made for the worship of God are not sufficient if Jesus is not the foundation, and finally as St. Paul says to the Corinthians, “Do you not realize that you are a temple of God with the Spirit of God living in you?”
Our job today is not to destroy the walls of Jericho, or build a pillar to the Lord, or polish up the handle on the big front door of the church. Because we are the church. We are the temple. Our job is to clean out our attics and basements, vacuum the floors of our soul, clean the windows and throw them open to the glory and the love of God and our neighbor. Jesus has told us that we are his temple. We are his house. What can we do today to make that house ready for him? How can we give him a place to lay his head in our hearts? We can love him.
Lord, we pray that today we meet each person as your temple, the holy of holies you have formed us into. We pray that we can keep our own temple spotless, worthy to welcome you into our presence, sinners though we are. We ask this in your Name. Amen.