LECTIO DIVINA: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C
Lk. 19:1 – 10.
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ, is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps. 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128, 40) Amen.
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
He came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short of stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy. When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “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.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” +
Let us now meditate with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Gospel according to St. Luke.
“But you will say: ‘If I am to be like Zacchaeus, I could not see Jesus because of the crowd’. Don’t be sad, climb the tree from which Jesus hanged for you and you will see. And what kind of tree did Zacchaeus climb? A sycamore tree. And in our region it does not exist and it is very rare that it may grow in any place, but in that zone this type of tree and fruit abound very much. Certain fruits similar to the figs are called sycamore, nevertheless they are different, as those who have seen and tasted them can know. By what the etymology of the name indicates, the Latin equivalent is ‘foolish figs’. Put your eyes now on my, Zacchaeus, look at him –I beg you- wanting to see Jesus in the middle of the crowd and not achieving it. He was humble, while the crowd was proud; and the crowd, as it frequently happens, became for itself an impediment to seeing the Lord well. He arose above the crowd and saw Jesus without being impeded. Actually, the humble, those who follow the path of humility, those who leave in the hands of God the injuries received and do not seek vengeance for their enemies, these the crowd insults and says to them: “You are useless, unable to avenge yourself!” The crowd prevents you from seeing Jesus; the crowd who brags and greatly rejoices when able to take revenge, impedes the vision of him who, hanging from the wood, said: Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. That is why, Zacchaeus, who wanted to see him, representing the humble persons, does not look at the crowd, now an impediment, but climbs a sycamore, as the tree of foolish fruit; because we, as the Apostle says, preach a Christ crucified, certainly a scandal for the Jews and –contemplate the sycamore- on the contrary, foolishness for the Gentiles (1 Cor. 1:23). Finally, the wise of this world insult us on account of the cross of Christ and say: “What kind of heart do you have that you adore a crucified God?” “What kind of heart do we have?” Certainly, not yours. The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God (1 Cor. 3:19). We do not then have a heart like yours. But you say that our heart is foolish. Say what you wish; let us climb the sycamore and let us see Christ. This is the reason why you cannot see Jesus, because you are ashamed to climb the sycamore. Zacchaeus reaches the sycamore, let the humble climb up the cross. It is little to climb; in order not to be ashamed of the cross of Christ, put it in front where modesty sits; precisely in the part of the body where strength appears; put it there so as not to be ashamed of it. I think that you laugh at the sycamore, but it also made me see Christ. You laugh at the sycamore because you are man, but the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 1:25).
But the Lord also saw Zacchaeus. He was seen and he saw him, but if he had not been seen, he would not have seen. For, those he predestined, he also called (Rom. 8: 30). He it was who told Nathanael that with his testimony he was already helping the Gospel and he asked: ‘Can something good come out of Nazareth?’ (Jn. 1:46) The Lord answered him: ‘Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.’ You know of what the first sinners –Adam and Eve- made their loincloths. When they sinned they made some loincloths with fig leaves and with these they covered the private parts (Gn. 3:7), sin being the cause of that shame. Therefore, if the first sinners, from whom we descended and in whom we had perished, in such a way that he came to seek and to save what had been lost, had made loincloths from fig leaves to cover their private parts, what other thing was indicated with the words: ‘I saw you when you were under the fig tree’, but that ‘you would not have come to him who takes away sin if beforehand he had not seen you under the shadow of sin’? We were seen so that we could see; so that we would love, we were loved. He is my God; his mercy will go ahead of me (Ps. 18:11).
Thus, the Lord who had already received Zacchaeus in his heart, also deigned to be received in his house and told him: ‘Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because today I must stay at your house’. He considered it a great favor to see Christ. He who held it a great and ineffable favor to see him pass by, immediately merited to have him at home. Grace is poured, faith acts through love (Gal. 5:6), he receives in his home Christ who already resides in his heart. Zacchaeus tells Christ: ‘Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone, I repay him fourfold.’ As if to say: ‘Look, I keep the other half not in order to possess it, but to have something to repay.’ See here, in what truly consists to receive Jesus, to receive him in the heart. In fact, Christ was there; he was in Zacchaeus, and by his inspiration he was telling him what he was hearing through his mouth. This is what the Apostle says: ‘That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith’ (Eph. 3:17).
Thus, as regards Zacchaeus the chief publican and great sinner, that crowd that saw itself healthy but impeded him to see Jesus, was filled with admiration, and considered it reproachful that Jesus would enter the house of a sinner, which was equivalent to reproaching a doctor for entering the house of the sick person. Since Zacchaeus became an object of mockery as a sinner, the sick crowd was ridiculing him, now already healthy, so the Lord answered those mockers: ‘Today salvation has come to this house.’ This is the reason why I enter. Today salvation has come. Certainly, if the Savior had not entered, salvation would not have arrived in that house. Why then are you surprised, you sick? You also call on Jesus, don’t think that you are healthy. The sick who receives the doctor is a sick person with hope (s. 174, 3-6).
With the text, let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time can give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
a. “He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore to see him, for he had to pass that way” (Lk. 19:4).
- For St. Augustine Zacchaeus was an image of humility. Why do you believe that it is important to be humble in order to see Jesus?
- To see Jesus, Zacchaeus had to climb a tree. St. Augustine interprets this tree as the cross. Why do you believe that one has to climb the cross in order to see Jesus?
b. “Jesus said: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because I must stay in your house” (Lk. 19:5).
- What place have you prepared in your heart to receive Jesus?
- What can you do so that Christ may always be your guest?
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
a. Contemplate how Zacchaeus runs to climb a sycamore tree. Contemplate how the gaze of Jesus meets with that of Zacchaeus and how before his admiration Jesus stops and tells him that he wants to be a guest at his house. Contemplate the discourse that Zacchaeus makes in his house in front of Jesus. Verify your feelings and sentiments.
b. Contemplate how Christ tells you that today he comes to stay in your house. Contemplate how he comes into your heart and you receive him within you. Contemplate what you tell Jesus once he is within you. Adore Christ within you and thank him for having come to be a guest in your heart and ask him to always stay.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially as regards being like Zacchaeus and receiving Christ into your own heart and into your own life. The following points can help you share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on the text.
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
G. Final Reflection of St. Augustine.
“The Lord also saw Zacchaeus. He was seen and he saw; but if he were not seen, he would not have seen. Because those whom he predestined he also called” (s. 174, 4).
Final Prayer of St. Augustine.
Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions, that you may increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen (en. Ps. 150:8). +