This last week’s gospel passage may very well apply to how the coming US elections will evolve. While both presidential candidates are promising a rosy future for the US, the outcome of the elections would determine if indeed salvation comes to the US which is facing many challenges from all flanks.
With Russia playing a larger role in the Middle East than what it originally planned and, with the Philippines, the closest ally of the US in Southeast Asia opening up to China and Russia, the United States, has, indeed, never before faced such trials.
These challenges are not confined to the Middle East and Asia alone, as at home there are a myriad of problems that may yet destroy the fiber of the American society.
Today, we have to come to grips with the realities of the post-modern world in which relativism has taken a life of its own especially in modern societies. With the decline in the quality of education in many institutes of learning, the young step into the new world with practically no knowledge of who God is. In fact, there have been persistent efforts to remove God from curriculum of educational institutions in a country that was founded by Christian missionaries.
There is no doubt the advent of modern communications and new technologies has made life easier and convenient but as technologies progresses so are those who use them. Having the latest gadgets has become the “in thing”, and at times people also have to do a complete makeover in order to belong. People nowadays are so enamored by the way they want to be perceived by others that they try to live their lives in the way they want themselves to be perceived.
Today, we choose our friends and the people we go out with. They have to be in the same social circle as we have. Hypocrisy has become a trait that many of us have contracted spiritual amnesia and have drifted away from the practice of our baptismal faith.
This may be the case for some of us, but this was not so for Jesus who has to live with the hypocrisy that abound during his time. This was also the situation that Zacchaeus had to contend with in Luke’s gospel chapter 19:1-10.
Zacchaeus was one of the most hated men of his time, and nobody in his right mind would want to have dinner with this notorious tax collector. This is especially so with the Pharisees and the people of Jericho who hated him and looked at him with contempt. As a tax official employed by the Romans, Zacchaeus was considered a traitor or an unclean person.
This was the reason why it came as a big surprise when Jesus stopped, looked at Zacchaeus, who climbed a sycamore tree to get a glimpse of Jesus, and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” (v.5) We could imagine the murmuring and protestation that followed. Zacchaeus came down and led Jesus to his house.
And to Zacchaeus who merely wanted to see Jesus for he had already heard of his uncompromising brand of preaching and healings, what Jesus said was not only a surprise but it provided him with the opportunity to recover even a little of his reputation that he lost on account of his profession.
Although the Scriptures did not describe the scenario, Zacchaeus was probably grinning from ear to ear because he must have felt that all his bad reputation has become a thing of the past as he led Jesus towards his house to have dinner with him. By tradition, only friends are invited by household owners to have dinner with them.
But this scenario actually has a two-fold dimension to it. Zacchaeus may have been hosting Jesus to dinner but actually it is Our Lord who was hosting the tax collector to his table of Grace.
In the Philippines, the series of police raids on which illegal drug laboratories have shown the extent of corruption in government, particularly in the past administration. And the construction of a massive drug rehabilitation facility in Nueva Ecija which was constructed in a short time is now being compared to the graft-ridden Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation project where only 1,000 temporary shelters have been built out of the planned 10,000 homes.
Indeed, when the opportunity arises there is in us the spirit of Zacchaeus as there are those who can’t help but dip their fingers in the coffers of the government. Though it would be like asking for the moon, but salvation can still come to people engaged in shenanigans if they can do what Zacchaeus had done. Overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus, Zacchaeus did
what for most of the people was unthinkable. He did not only have a change of heart but he showed his true repentance by giving half of his wealth to the poor and the other half to make payments and restitution for the corruption that he had perpetrated. This went far beyond what was legally necessary in those days, and this change had a lasting effect on how the people perceived him.
“Salvation has come to this house.” Jesus, in this gospel, shows that one can be saved through faith and repentance. Like Zacchaeus, there is a need for us to find our own sycamore tree on which we could climb to see Jesus.