"Today I must stay at your house."
I love this Gospel - in fact I have been thinking of it on and off for several days, so I was surprised when I discovered it was today's Gospel.
The Holy Father has a beautiful homily for today, as do many other priests. The homily I heard was kind of hard to understand. Father mentioned that Zacchaeus was fat. I wasn't sure where he got that, but I checked online and it is suggested in some online entries, or 'teachings'. I think homilies are important, but if you are going to 'outsource' them, maybe keep it simple and focus on one point - one good anecdote. No offense intended - it just would be more helpful for the listeners to follow.
As I said, I've always liked this Gospel, and I've been thinking about for several days.
Zacchaeus is sort of a funny guy - the Gospel passage strikes me as sort of humorous. I like to think his enthusiasm delighted Our Lord. Christ may have already been told who Zacchaeus was and most likely knew what he did, and why he was despised. Of course, he also could see into his heart, and more deeply, God "knew him before he formed him in his mother's womb." Therefore it seems to me safe to say, Christ first went in search of Zacchaeus, "for you show yourself first and go out to meet those who seek you" as St. John of the Cross says.
Since my monastery days - I've been accustomed to understanding this Gospel as an invitation to recollection, the prayer of recollection. I like to imagine Christ, in the deepest center of our heart, of our soul, calling us to leave behind our preoccupation with externals, the distractions we seek and those which assail us. I like to think Jesus calls us to come down, to get out of our brains as it were, to put aside all the intellectual, theological speculation and commune with him in silent, loving prayer. Even when we find ourselves so imperfect. Despite our failures, I think Christ sees us already cleansed of our sins, and calls out:
"O soul, most beautiful of all creatures, that so greatly desires to know the place where your Beloved is, in order to seek Him and be united with Him.... It is a matter of great contentment and joy for you to see that He is so near you as to be within you. Rejoice and be glad in your inward recollection with Him, since you have Him so near. There desire Him, there adore Him, and do not go to seek Him outside yourself." - Spiritual CanticleThis prayer of recollection can become habitual, and like the sheep pastured by the Good Shepherd, the soul "will come in and go out and find pasture" - all the while remaining in his presence, before his watchful gaze. The prayer of recollection becomes the pasture, as it were. As Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection said, "That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times."
When good people grumble about our sinfulness and scandalous life, (and they do) - then we can all the more repent, and rejoice with Zacchaeus, that we are at last 'found out'. We can then follow the example of Zacchaeus, confess our failings, striving to make reparation, while trusting in God's mercy - God, who first loved us, who sought us out, with the intention of staying in our house this day. We can repent every day, and return to our inward cell of recollection. Because God comes to save what was lost.
“There is no occupation or social condition, no sin or crime of any kind, that could erase from the memory and the heart of God even one of His children.” God is a Father, always keeping a watchful and loving vigil “to see reborn in the hearts of the child the desire to return home. And when He recognizes that desire, even simply stated, He is immediately close by, and with His forgiveness He makes the path of conversion and return easier.” - Pope Francis