MEDITATION TIP —31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 30, 2022

«Zacchaeus came down quickly and received Jesus with joy» (Luke 19:6)

 Let us imagine the scene in today’s Gospel. Zacchaeus was a tax collector who went to see Jesus simply out of curiosity. He was called by Jesus, who came down from the sycamore tree and joyfully received him. The question is: Why was Zacchaeus willing to receive Jesus with joy?

 He was the head of a tax collector, who was considered a sinner in those days, and moreover, he was rich. The reason why tax collectors were treated as sinners is because Israel was under the rule of the Roman Empire at that time, and people had to pay taxes to the enemy Roman Empire that ruled over them, and they despised the collectors of those taxes, calling them “Roman dogs”. In fact, it is said that there were not a few who collected extra taxes and embezzled money. Because of this situation, they were always looked at with contempt by the people, and no one would even smile at them. It must have been the same for Zacchaeus, who was scorned by people, looked at with contempt, and lived his daily life taking it for granted that no one would smile at him.

 But today things would be different. From under the sycamore tree, Jesus suddenly calls out to Zacchaeus. “Zacchaeus, come down quickly. I would like to stay at your house today.” The look on Jesus’ face as he said this must have been the kindest look he had ever been given. Receiving such a kind look, Zacchaeus was happy to welcome Jesus into his home. Zacchaeus’ joyful expression was a mirror of Jesus’ kind look. Zacchaeus did not need long prayers or ascetic practices for his conversion. A kind look and a loving word from Jesus were enough.

 Interpersonal relationships work like mirrors. If we smile at the mirror, our mirrored selves smile at us, and if we make a sour face at the mirror, our mirrored selves make a sour face at us. In the same way, if we think “I don’t like this person” as we approach someone, it will surely show in our facial expression, and the other person will sense it and make the same face. On the other hand, if we approach someone with the thought, “I like this person,” the other person will feel the same way and give us the same look. The face of the person we are talking to is actually a portrait of ourselves. We have experienced this from the time we were born. Newborn babies cannot speak yet. But they watch their parents’ faces carefully. And they keep asking themselves, “Do my parents really love me? As evidence, when the parent smiles, the baby smiles, and when the parent makes a scary face, the baby cries. In fact, the baby’s smile is a mirror of the parent’s smile. Children receive smiles from their parents and gradually come to realize that they are happy and are grateful to have been born into this world.

 The feelings in our hearts are always shown in our facial expressions. We can never live our lives pretending to be something we are not. If we want to live according to Jesus, we must have, to use a very simplistic expression, a heart without falsehood, a good heart, and a heart of respect and love for others.  

      (Father Akabae)