Room for surprise

Zacchaeus – we know him well, right? He is the chief tax collector, short of stature, wealthy, looked down upon by Romans and Jews alike. His fellow countrymen considered him a sinner – says so right there in verse 7. They know him. We know him. If you go to Jericho today, they will show you the sycamore tree in which Zacchaeus climbed just to catch a glimpse of Jesus. We know the story, right? Another sinner that Jesus has come to rescue from perdition. Says so right there in verse 10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.Continue reading

Saving What Was Lost

This coming Sunday is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time. Yesterday we considered the “cost”of grace. Today we take a look at the graciousness of Jesus

Jesus’ words in v. 9 are literally: “Today salvation has happened to/in this house(hold), because also this one is a son of Abraham.” What is the “salvation” that has happened? “Salvation” (soteria) is a rare word in Luke. All the other occurrences are in the Benedictus (Zechariah’s song of praise – 1:69, 71 & 77), which are in references to John the Baptist’s ministry. The related word also translated “salvation” (soterion) occurs in the Nunc Dimittis (Simeon’s cry of praise in 2:30) and in a quote from Isaiah (3:6). So outside of two songs and an OT quote, the noun “salvation” only occurs in this text. (Neither of these words occur in Mt or Mk and only once in John – although we have already encountered a related verb “to heal/save” (sozo) and will again in v. 10 below.) Continue reading

A Warning About Cheap Grace

This coming Sunday is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time. Yesterday we considered the interplay between Jesus and Zachaeus, as well as the crowd’s reaction to the interchange. The dialogue and invitation raise another question to consider: Is it possible to be too gracious?

Should Jesus have told Zacchaeus to straighten up his act before he invited himself to his house? Couldn’t Jesus’ actions have been interpreted as condoning the tax collector’s sinfulness? Isn’t that the accusation against the Christian Churches of Germany after WWII? Continue reading

A man on a quest

This coming Sunday is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time. Yesterday we look at the parallels and connections within the Lucan narrative as Jesus, moving steadily towards Jerusalem, continues to prepare his disciples for their evangelical mission.

At first glance we might expect this to be another parable challenging the rich. The rich have not fared well in Luke’s gospel. Jesus pronounces woes upon the rich (6:24). God called the rich farmer a fool (12:16, 20) and required his soul of him. The rich man went to Hades while Lazarus went to the bosom of Abraham, and Jesus observed how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (18:23, 25).  Zacchaeus is a “wealthy man” (19:2) Continue reading


In today’s Mass readings we encounter the well-known story of Zacchaeus the tax collector who was curious to see Jesus, this wonder worker about whom he had heard so much. It is a much different encounter of the blind man in yesterday’s gospel. Both are example of the laws of momentum, but on a spiritual plain.

The first law of momentum states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. The blind man used his inner desire, the movement of the Spirit, the presence of Jesus – we are not told specifically – to ask Jesus for his sight. Acted upon by the greater force of God’s power and love, the course of that man’s life changed.
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Demands of Discipleship

This coming Sunday marks our journey in Ordinary Time, the 31st Sunday in Year C. You can read a complete commentary on the Sunday Gospel here.

1 He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. 2 Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, 3 was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. 5 When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he came down quickly and received him with joy. 7 When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “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.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:1-10) Continue reading