Look Who’s coming for dinner

“Today I shall dine at your house.” Very few of our friends would be so up front as to invite themselves over without giving us the heads-up, let alone someone we just met. Yet when it came to Zacchaeus in this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Luke, that is exactly what Jesus did: He invited Himself over. To which not only did Zacchaeus welcome Jesus into his home, he also repented of all the wrongs he had committed to others. 

To think it all began with Zacchaeus trying to get a glimpse of Jesus. He was a person, like so many of us, who was just trying to see what all the commotion was about. Little did he know that this desire to see what was going on would have a life-changing effect on him. 

We, too, try to find Jesus in our lives and all around us, trying to make sense of it all. Yet, He simply asks us to let Him in, no frills, no fancy invitations, just a simple, “I’m coming by.” Are we ready to let Him in? Are we able to forget previous plans, let everything go, and open the door? Too often, letting Him in has a major impact on our lives, and if we are not careful, can change us dramatically, as was the case with Zacchaeus. 

Many of us have gone through various transformations in our lives. These transformative events can range from going away to school; moving away for employment; getting married; choosing to follow Christ as a religious Sister or Brother, priest, or through consecrated life; just to mention a few. It is in these moments that we come to learn who God intends us to be, who He knows we can become. What is required of us is to find a way, even if it means climbing the nearest tree to get a good look. Often our own shortcomings can block us from what is right in front of us. We become just another face in the crowd, fearful of standing out or being noticed, shying away behind the person in front of us. We continue to stay the current course, because it is one we are comfortable with, even if it is taking us down the wrong paths. 

When we dare to let Jesus in, we open ourselves up to His mercy and love. We find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, wondering if we should turn back, or press onward. The road ahead seems too uncertain, yet when we trust, we find comfort in its newness. Suddenly we are inspired to reach beyond what we know, to become one with all that God wants for us. In our welcoming of the Lord into our homes and hearts, we allow ourselves to be released from all that binds us. We too, find ways to fix the wrongs in our lives, to forgive those who need our forgiveness; and most importantly, to seek forgiveness for ourselves. 

What do we hold on to so tightly that it actually has us in its grip? What have we gained that has left us so lost? We live in a fast-paced world, a world that is constantly telling us to “go for it,” “carpe diem,” and “just do it,” etc. A time when doing what feels good is more important than what feels right. No different really than Zacchaeus and the other tax collectors of his time, who while doing the work of the empire, skimmed a little off the top for themselves. It was what everyone else was doing, so why not! Sound familiar? 

But yet the Gospel reminds us that Jesus is on a mission. Not only does He inform His host that “Today Salvation has come to this house,” but He also makes sure that everyone knows that, “the Son of man has come to seek and save what was lost” (Lk 19). He came to save all of us regardless of who we are. We just need to let Him in, and by doing so we can be freed of what keeps us from Him. 

Are we willing to let Him in? After all, He just invited Himself over, we simply just need to open the door. How can we, like Zacchaeus, open ourselves up to the opportunity to change? As we look to our own lives, let us remember that we are the only ones who can let Him in. He may knock. He will ask to come in, but ultimately we have the choice, we decide. So do we dare get down from that tree? If we are willing to say “yes,” we will definitely need to run ahead in order to get everything ready and prepared for His arrival. 

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren. rsaraiva@dfrcs.com

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