Seeing Jesus Up in a Tree and Under our Roof

We will hear this Sunday at Mass that we are in the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time. As those numbers get higher, we get closer to the end of the liturgical year that concludes on the Solemnity of Christ the King. This year, it will also mark the end to the Jubilee Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis inaugurated at last year’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception.

With less than a month to go in this marathon of mercy, are our spry souls more nimble after bathing in the rich springs of God’s mercy? The gospel reading this Sunday is where Zacchaeus, the diminutive tax collector, climbs the tree to see Jesus, and Jesus later joins the public sinner in his home for a meal. Luke tells us that Zacchaeus “received him with joy.”

What an image! Can’t we imagine a Danny DeVito-looking kind of guy, struggling up a tree, burdened by his shame, sins, and guilt that make him feel even smaller? He yearns to catch a glance of the calm and centered Jesus in the hopes of a connection that could bring some freedom from the weight of his sins. Then, his burdens are replaced with sheer joy at having Jesus in his home.

Do we receive Jesus with joy at the meal that is the Eucharist? We say before receiving Jesus: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.” Zacchaeus brought Jesus under his own roof.

So do we.

Yet, sometimes we may receive Jesus with fear, distance, reluctance, or a sense of shameful unworthiness. This is not the way of the Gospel. In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, he reminds us that we are not to be “sourpusses: While painfully aware of our own frailties, we have to march on without giving in, keeping in mind what the Lord said to St. Paul: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.’”

Let us claim the joy of the Gospel. Let us receive Jesus with joy, just like Zacchaeus, another sinner who is forgiven and redeemed and visited by God. Let joy replace anything that separates us from the love of God.

This is why Jesus comes under our roof.