We can imagine Zacchaeus elbowing his way through the crowd to get a glimpse at Jesus. People not only disliked him because he was a tax collector, but because he was presumptuous, thinking he had a right to push his way through the crowd.
Obviously, Zacchaeus was accustomed to getting his way. He had not become wealthy by being a “pushover”. The words “tax collector” and “wealthy” were almost synonymous. Zacchaeus admitted to being an extortionist. No doubt he was small, but powerful. His abuse of power was well-known. One day Zacchaeus had a chance to start a new life. Like in the movies a criminal can change his name, his face, his fingerprints. He can get a complete identity change. Zacchaeus did not change his identity. But he did change inside. He had an attitude change. Even his value system was adjusted. A person once gave a testimony: He traveled over the bridge to Mexico every day. Naturally, he had to show his ID. The man had the opportunity to make a retreat that changed his life. He started to come to Holy Mass, received absolution for his sins and began receiving Holy Communion. Later his marriage was convalidated in the Church. He no longer was abusive to his wife or children. The man got involved in ministry. His old self died, and a new person was born. Due to change in personnel at the bridge, the officials could not recognize the old picture with the new face in front of them. They questioned him because they thought that he was using a fake ID. After the explanation to the ones in charge, the man had to get a new picture to match his new life. What happens on the inside affects what happens on the outside.
There were no cameras in the time of Zacchaeus. But we can guess that he was a different man from before and after he met Jesus Christ. He probably didn’t get taller. But he might have felt like the tallest person around when Jesus said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” Zacchaeus received much more than he thought possible. He won the lottery. He hit the jackpot. In an instant he went from having everything he wanted, to not needing what he had. Possessions took a back seat to his newfound friendship with the Lord. No more cheating. No more worries about the money. Almost one hundred percent of our worries are about possessions. The mundane stuff that occupies our time will one day turn to dust. Jesus Christ wants to be the center of our life and no one and nothing is more important.
Don’t forget the grumblers. People were talking. People always talk. There was not much else to do. Gossip has always been and will continue to be a favorite pastime. The onlookers grumbled when Jesus said that He was going to visit the house of Zacchaeus. They grumbled like we grumble when someone whom we do not think to be worthy approaches Holy Communion, or gets pardoned, or gets elected. To grumble is not like speaking out a complaint, but rather talking under our breath. Not quite understandable, but others know that we are not pleased. The grumblers were shocked that Jesus was going to defile himself by entering the house of a sinner. No doubt that Jesus saw them grumbling. Jesus ignored them. Zacchaeus ignored them. That’s the best weapon against full-blown prejudice—ignore them. Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Words do hurt, if we know that they are true. In this case they were lies. Zacchaeus deserved a chance to start again. Zacchaeus showed evidence of his inner conversion. Actions speak louder than words. He said, from now on, my possessions do not matter as much as people. He gave half of his possessions to the poor. He returned four times the amount of money that he had stolen. A true indication of a changed man. His conversion was for keeps.
Jesus visited his home and Zacchaeus welcomed him. Jesus comes to us in Holy Communion. He will change our life, if we allow Him.