FR MICHAEL BOAKYE YEBOAH
CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF KUMASI, GHANA
I would like to think that you have heard it said a thousand times that curiosity kills the cat but for some people curiosity may have brought them to encounter Christ. Curiosity carries the nuance of “eager desire to know or learn about something…” There are stories of many people who came to know Christ through curiosity. I have heard testimonies of people who upon hearing of a renowned gifted man of God went to a crusade ground to see the miracles and hear heartwarming preaching not with the intention to become a Christian but eventually they ended up embracing the Christian faith.
Such may have been the story of Zacchaeus. We are told that Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector and a wealthy man who upon hearing of Jesus was curious to see him. But because he was a very short man the crowd blocked his view, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree so that when Jesus passed that way he could catch a glimpse of him. His curiosity caught the attention of Jesus. He really demonstrated the eager desire to see Jesus and he was rewarded when Jesus told him “Zacchaeus, come down quickly for today I must stay at your house… and he came down quickly and received him with joy.” The story does not end there, because upon seeing Jesus, he wanted to discard something important in his life and replace it with Jesus. The inspired writer narrates Zacchaeus’ confession perfectly: “…Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over… And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham…For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”
The phrase “…salvation has come to this house…” should be understood in its actual sense and figurative sense. The Old Testament theology held that when God saved a person it affected members of his household. Heads of families always embraced salvation on behalf of their households. The conversion of Zacchaeus therefore carries a communal significance.
The phrase can also be taken in its figurative sense because the term “house” can also stand for one’s body. St Paul tells us that our bodies are temples/houses of the Holy Spirit. When we sin, we desecrate the temple and so when Jesus met Zacchaeus he re-dedicated the temple of his body back to God that is why he said “…salvation has come to this house.” Let your encounter with Jesus bring salvation to your family while at the same time restoring your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
I would like us to pay attention and reflect on three important stages in the conversion story of Zacchaeus. The first one has to do with his curiosity to know Jesus. His eagerness of desire to know Jesus made him overcome all challenges on his path. The first obstacle was the crowd while the second had to do with his physical stature. He did not allow these challenges to discourage him rather he found a quick solution. He climbed a sycamore tree and with that height he overcame the challenge of the crowd blocking his view and his own physical stature preventing him to look over the crowd. The effort he displayed can be termed as real curiosity. This first step of Zacchaeus’ conversion should encourage you and me to do more to know Jesus. I have seen people who will stay at home and would not go for Mass because of a little drizzling of rain. Others will give the excuse of lack of transport fare. Years ago, we walked kilometres in rain to attend Mass in the next town because in those days one would be privileged to get a Mass said in his village once a year; but today Holy Mass is so close and yet some people find excuses not to attend Mass and encounter Jesus. For Zacchaeus he did not return home and use the excuse of his height and the crowd but he found solutions. Christians of our time need to improve on their desire to visit Jesus at Mass and at a nearby adoration chapel.
The next step has to do with his joyousness in accepting the invitation of Jesus. Whenever a Christian comes into contact with Jesus in his Word and Sacrament, there ought to be a visible and invisible signs of great joy. We should demonstrate great joy whenever we go for Mass and partake in a sacred event or read the Word of God. As a Sunday school boy, my favorite biblical text was: “I was happy when it was said unto me let us go to the house of God” (Psalm 122). Why should a Catholic be begged to attend Mas?. Every Mass is an invitation from Jesus and should be met with great joy.
The last step has to do with the sacrifices Zacchaeus was ready to make in order to live a new life in Christ. The Dominican medieval preacher Meister Eckhart once said: “unless a Christian empty himself of the world, he cannot be filled with Christ.” This famous quote can sum-up the decision of Zacchaeus that day. He was ready to let go of his former life laced with corruption in order to welcome Christ in his life. The Lord makes it so clear in the scriptures that his disciple cannot serve both mammon and the Lord; a choice ought to be made and Zacchaeus teaches us all how to make that choice. The question I would like to pose is: What is preventing you and me from allowing Jesus to take his rightful place in our lives? As you read this reflection you know your own and I know mine; we need to let go so that Christ will come and occupy his rightful place in our lives. We should always take clue from the wise words of St Augustine: “We are made for God and we belong to God and our hearts will be restless until they rest in God.”
Zacchaeus has shown us the way and I am happy that many Catholics are walking on that path. It will interest you to know that I have been writing these reflections on Facebook for the past 13 years and when at one point I wanted to stop, but the curiosity to know God’s Word displayed by some of you kept me going. I praise you for your ardent curiosity to study and live by God’s Word. I praise some of you who read the homilies out to family and friends and share them on various social media platforms.
May God help us all in our faith journey. OUR LADY OF PERPETUAL HELP PRY FOR US.