Homily for the Thirty-First Sunday OT

The Key to His Heart

I read once that when Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was going to enter the town of Jericho

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, he closed the drawers of his desk and locked them. He closed the door of his safe and locked it. He closed the door of his office and locked it. He closed the door of his house and locked it. He closed the gate in front of his house and locked it. He then flipped a coin to the Roman Soldier who guarded the compound, just to make sure nothing happened to the money where Zacchaeus collected his taxes.

Zacchaeus had used almost a dozen keys before he left his house. He was a money man, all he thought about was money, all he dreamed about was money, all his security came from the money he made and needed to protect. He took the risk of going into the street without his body guard because he wanted to see what was going on. That was it, to see, to observe. He had heard about Jesus being able to touch and heal and prophesy. He had heard that Jesus was a great magician and conjurer, that he was able to deal with the devil, Beelzebub, and read other people’s minds.

It was worth taking the afternoon off so Zacchaeus could see this strange man that was loved by the people and hated by the Authorities. On the other hand Zacchaeus himself was loved by the Authorities and hated by the people. Zacchaeus didn’t want to participate in this nonsense, and did want to see the man everyone was talking about. Not pushed or pulled or admonished or converted or healed or have his mind read. He was just in need of a break from collecting his taxes.

He didn’t want to be seen, and therefore, before the street filled up, he climbed a tree and sat on a branch, thinking about his favorite subject: money. All of us often resemble Zacchaeus, merely observing, sitting on our tree branch high above reality, high above others, looking down on others. We don’t involve ourselves in the world, we observe coolly, like Zacchaeus wanted to do.

Well guess what? Zacchaeus didn’t succeed! When Jesus entered the street he was surrounded by a great crowd. That made Zacchaeus anonymous. Jesus purposefully stopped to look at him. He wanted to be invisible, and Jesus made it worse. “Zacchaeus, come down, and hurry.” Zacchaeus almost fell out of the tree and something changed in him as he climbed down. He began to think about something else besides himself. Before Jesus could even say another word Zacchaeus blurted out: “Behold half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” The crowds began to fall away from Jesus and began to grumble. “He has gone to stay with a sinner.” Perhaps they thought “Why is he going to THAT sinner’s
house when he could have come to MY house?” And that would mean they would need to acknowledge their sins too.

Jesus gives him a new name “This man too is a descendant of Abraham.” Zacchaeus had found a home among sinners who looked to God to be saved. Jesus and Zacchaeus were alone on the street as they walked toward his house. He dismissed the Roman Soldier and paid him his just wage. He took out his keys and opened the front gate that he had locked. He unlocked and opened the door
of his house, unlocked and opened the door to his office. Unlocked and opened the door of his safe, got the key to the drawers of his desk, and opened it. He was a man who didn’t want to participate in all this nonsense, only wanted to be an observer. Did not want to be pushed or pulled or admonished or converted or healed or have his mind read. He was just in need of a break from his tax collecting. And scripture says: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

As I look down from my branch, I count the keys that were left on the kitchen counter when I arrived.

There are twenty eight keys. And only two open our Church.