Our Gospel for today is about a rich man, Zaccheus, who was a public sinner. Everybody in Jericho knew that as a tax collector, working for the Romans, he extracted exorbitant taxes from the people while he collected high commissions from the foreign government. He made himself wealthy as more and more people became poor. That was the reason why he was hated by the people in Jericho.
When Jesus who was gaining popularity passed by Jericho, people wanted to have a glimpse of him. Zaccheus was not spared from this mob curiosity. Small in stature, and short of respect from his town mates, nobody gave him space to see Jesus. He had to climb a sycamore tree. He must have been holding the branches of the tree like a monkey as he tried to watch the highly respected and popular Jesus pass by.
There was a large crowd. Nobody would have noticed and if they did, nobody would have minded, the wealthy man who amassed his wealth by making others suffer poverty. Nobody really cared if he appeared like a monkey. He could have looked like a crocodile, nobody thought it was his business to take notice of him. But not Jesus. Jesus looked at Zaccheus and saw beyond his corrupt ways, beyond his stunted physical appearance, beyond the diminished self-esteem, and saw his soul and its possibilities of healing and being cleansed. Jesus saw the human dignity that gave value to Zaccheus despite his shortcomings.
Jesus looked up. He didn’t look down on Zaccheus. He looked at him with tenderness and seeing the possibilities of his being, told Zaccheus, “Zaccheus, come down quickly, for today, I must stay at your house.” Jesus said this amidst the protests of people who saw only the sin, the corruption, the shortcomings of Zaccheus.
And the miracle happened. With his contact up close and personal with Jesus, Zaccheus became a changed man. He returned four times over all the wealth he got from the people through foul means and whatever remained of his possessions, half of it, he gave to the poor. Salvation has come to his house.
My dear brothers and sisters, this is what usually happens when our contact with Jesus is so near, so intimate. We listen to his words, we take to heart the deeds he has done, and we keep them in our hearts. Jesus, through his words and example, will illumine our lives. It is as if, Jesus has penetrated the depths of our beings. We would begin to see our shortcomings and experience the healing of our souls, the fullness of our lives. Like Zaccheus, we too, will experience salvation.
Our sister Dehl was a religious woman, like all her siblings and her parents. Her family is not among what we call nominal Catholics or even Sunday Catholics. They are what we can call in Tagalog, “Katoliko Serado”. They live their Catholic faith – true to their Sunday obligations and their other duties to God, dedicated to their respective families, and solicitous about the needs of others. These qualities are clearly manifested in the life of our sister Dehl. She was faithful to God, making sure that she attended Sunday mass with her family. There in the Church, she heard the Word of God, came to know about the loving and miraculous deeds of Jesus, and became in close contact with him through the Eucharist. Jesus entered the depth of her being. That is why, she defrauded no one, she took care of her husband and children like a protective mother hen, she was conscientious of her duties in the hospital where she worked and she never refused to extend her helping hand to people who needed her assistance.
Today, at the fortieth day of her death, we all can rest assured, that as Jesus went up to heaven forty days after his death, Dehl would also be there with him. For in the words of Jesus to Zaccheus, “Salvation has come to Dehl’s house.