Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
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.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:1-10
The Zaccheus story shows our Lord’s eagerness to seek out those whom others are tempted to look down on. Zaccheus would have been lost in the crowd because of his small stature, had he not climbed the tree. He was also looked down upon because of his role as chief tax collector. But Jesus sought him out, not only by giving him attention but by dining at his house.
Jesus breaks down the false barriers we place between certain kinds of people and others; he goes first to those who are pushed aside by the crowd.
The Church, through which Jesus continues to carry out his mission today, does the same thing, and therefore speaks up for those pushed aside by the crowd, especially the smallest of the small, the unborn.
Their lives, like ours, are not just the handiwork of God, but a continuous proof of his love. The first reading reminds us that at every moment God is sustaining each one of us with the breath of life. We would fall back into nothingness at once if God did not have his love focused on us in an uninterrupted way. To snuff out a life, therefore, whether of the born or the unborn, is a direct contradiction to God’s loving will, which sustains all things in being.
On the other hand, we cooperate with the life-giving love of God each time we reach out to those around us who may be unsure about how to handle their pregnancy, and give them the strength to love their unborn child. We do likewise when we strengthen those who care for the vulnerable, the disabled, and the dying. By helping one another grow in love for the weakest in the human family, we and they literally become more like God, for “how could a thing remain unless you willed it, or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?’
This Lectionary Life App installment first appeared in November, 2013. It was authored by Rev. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life’s National Director and Pastoral Associate of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign co-sponsored by Anglicans for Life and Priests for Life.