What if Jesus were coming to our town. What would you do to make sure you had a chance to meet Him? Would you camp out on the street all night to make sure you had a good spot along the street He would be passing by? Would you climb a tree or a telephone pole so that you could get a good look at Him? Would you yell out to Him in hopes that He would hear you and look your way? Would you break through the police barricade and risk getting arrested to run up and touch Him? How far would you go for a chance to meet your Lord and Savior?
What if Jesus were coming to your house? What would you do to prepare? What do you think you would talk to Him about? What questions would you ask Him? What do you think He would want to know about you? Is there any part of your life that you would want to hide from Him? Is there any part of your life that you think He would not be pleased with? How do you think your life would change if Jesus were a guest in your home?
In the gospel we have just heard proclaimed, little Zacchaeus is in just such a spot. Jesus was passing through Jericho, and he was determined to get a look at him. The problem was that he was very short, and the crowd was already pressed tight along the way Jesus was passing. Worse still, little Zacchaeus was despised by the people. There was no way they were going to make room for him. If he was going to see Jesus, he would have to find a way to rise above the crowd. And so, he decided to climb up a sycamore tree. He could have let the crowd intimidate him. He could have decided it was no use and gone home. But Zacchaeus would not miss his chance to see the wonder-worker from Galilee. Because of his determination and efforts, Jesus recognized him and spent the rest of the day with Him.
We have come here today to get a glimpse of Jesus. All of us have taken time out of our weekend to hear His word and receive His Body and Blood. We encounter Him in our brothers and sisters gathered together with us. For some of us, it is natural to come to Mass every week and even every day. We have been doing it all our lives and would not dream of spending this time any other way. On the other hand, for many of our families it was no easy task getting the children ready, packing a bag for the baby and piling into the car to make it here on time. Others of us considered not coming because we had pressing chores at home or a television show we would have liked to watch. But we made the effort anyway. No matter why we are here or what efforts we made to get here, God is pleased. He, in turn, will make an effort to reach out to us. He knows each of us by name. And He is determined to be our guest.
There is one thing, however. For us to receive Jesus into our hearts, something about our life must change. When Zacchaeus agreed to have Jesus be a guest in his home, he pledged to give half of his belongings away to the poor and to repay anyone he may have defrauded. It was a stunning act for such a wealthy man. But he knew that he would be all the richer for having the opportunity to get to know Jesus personally. Each of us is likewise holding onto something that we must let go of if we are to stretch our hands out to Jesus. It could be an old habit or an unhealthy relationship. Our greed could be driving us to overwork ourselves and neglect our families. Or bitterness over past hurts could be making us unwilling to forgive others. We have to be willing to let it all go so that we can make room for Jesus in our lives.
We are all sinners. Each of us struggles to live the gospel message in a society which is hostile to it. Each of us is bearing a cross of some kind. We are very often forgetful of God and His love. We very often fail at reflecting His joy and mercy in our lives. But we keep showing up here. We keep praying, we keep hoping and we keep trying. We very often wish we could see more results but realize that our walk with Jesus is in baby steps not leaps and bounds. Despite our own shortcomings and the difficulties that are part of the Christian life, we are determined to move forward because we cannot be satisfied with anything else except Jesus. At this point, we see that the world cannot give us what our hearts truly desire. And so, even though the crowd tries to push us away and block our view, we find a way to rise above so that we can see Jesus who is our true joy. Whatever effort we have to make, whatever changes we need to make in our lives, whatever it costs us, we are willing to do it because there is no greater joy than hearing Jesus call out our name and welcoming Him into our homes and into our lives.
And so, each of us has a decision to make today. Is Jesus just another man passing through town, or is He the Son of God, our Lord and Savior? Do we let the crowd intimidate and accuse us, or do we find a way to rise above so that we can see Jesus? Do we make excuses or do we make a way? Do we hold onto our sinfulness, or do we reach out our hand to Jesus?
However we answer these questions will make all the difference in our lives.