Translated by Fray Emilio Larlar, Jr., OAR
A. Invocation to the Holy Spirit
Let us invoke the Holy Spirit with the words of St. Augustine.
Come Holy Spirit, by whom every pious soul who believes in Christ in order to make himself a citizen of the City of God is made holy! (En. in Ps. 45, 8). Come Holy Spirit, grant that we may receive the promptings of God, place in us Your fire, illumine us and raise us up to God (Sermon 128, 4).
With a willing heart, and with sincerity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing them to have an impact on you:
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 in 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 meditate now with the commentary of St. Augustine on these words of the Evangelist St. Luke:
“But you will say: “If I have to be like, Zacchaeus I cannot see Jesus on account of the crowd”. Don’t be sad, climb up the tree on which Jesus was hung and you will see. And what kind of tree did Zacchaeus climb up to? A sycamore tree. In our region either it does not exist or it is rare that it may come up in some place, but in that area there are plenty of this kind of tree and fruit. Some fruits similar to firs are called sycamores; however, they are different in something, as those who have seen and tasted them can know. So it indicates the etymology of its name, it is equivalent to the Latin word “foolish fig trees”. For now focus your attention on Zacchaeus, look at him – I beg you – desiring to see Jesus in the midst of the crowd without success. He was humble, while the crowd was proud; and the same crowd as frequently happens, became for itself an obstacle for seeing the Lord well. He went over the crowd and saw Jesus without it preventing him. Indeed, to the humble, to those who follow the path of humility, those who leave in the hands of God the injuries they received, and do not ask for revenge for their enemies, to those the crowd insults and tells them: ‘Good-for-thing!, you are incapable of taking revenge!” The crowd prevents you from seeing Jesus; the crowd, who glories and exalts in joy when it could take revenge, it impedes their seeing the one, who hanging on the wood, said: Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. That is why Zacchaeus, who wanted to see Him, representing the humble person, does not consider the crowd, which is an obstacle, but climbs up a sycamore, as a tree with foolish fruit. Because we – the Apostle says- proclaim Christ crucified, certainly a stumbling block to Jews – look at the sycamore – on the other hand, foolishness to Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23). Finally, the wise of the world insult us with respect to the cross of Christ and say: “What kind of heart do you have you who adore a God crucified?” What kind of heart do we have? Certainly, not yours. The wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes God (1 Cor 3:19).Therefore, we do not have a heart like yours. But you say that our heart is foolish. Say whatever you want; we climb up a sycamore and we see Jesus. Here is the reason why you cannot see Jesus: because you are ashamed to climb the sycamore. Let Zacchaeus reach the sycamore, let the humble go up the cross. To climb is very little thing; in order not to be ashamed of the cross of Christ, place it on the forehead, where the seat of modesty is; precisely there, in the part of the body where modesty is seen; put it there in order not to be ashamed of it. I think that you laugh about the sycamore, but it likewise made me see Jesus. You laugh at the sycamore because you are a man, but the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men (1 Cor 1:25).
The Lord likewise saw Zacchaeus, He was seen and He saw him, but if he had not been seen, he would not have seen Him. Because those He predestine, He also called (Rom 8:30). He was the one who said to Nathanael who with his testimony was already as if aiding the Gospel and asked: Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (Jn 1:46). The Lord answered him: Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree. Do you know of what did the first sinners, Adam and Eve, make their girdles? When they sinned they made for themselves girdles of fig leaves and with them covered their shameful parts (Gen 3:7), sin being the cause of that shame. Therefore, if the first sinners from whom we descend and with whom we had perished, in such a way He came to seek and save what had been lost, they made those girdles of fig leaves in order to cover their shameful parts, what other thing is indicated with the words: I saw you when you were under a fig tree, but that could not have come to the one who takes away sin if before He had not seen you under the shadow of death? We were seen so that we could see; so that we could love, we were loved. He is my God, His mercy will go before me (Ps 18:11).
Therefore, the Lord, who had already received Zacchaeus in His heart, deigned to be received in his house, and said to him: Zacchaeus, come down quickly, because it is convenient that I stay in your house. He considered it a great favor to see Christ. He who considered it a great and ineffable favor seeing Him pass by, immediately merited to have Him in his house. Grace is instilled, faith acts through love (Gal 5:6), Christ is received in the house, who already dwelt in the heart. Zacchaeus says to Christ: Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I defrauded someone I will repay him fourfold. As if to say: “Look I keep the other half, not to possess it, but to have with which to give back”. Here is, in truth, what to receive Christ, to receive Him in the heart means. Indeed, there was Jesus; He was in Zacchaeus, and through His inspiration he said to himself what he heard from His mouth. It is what the Apostle says: That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith (Eph 3:17).
Therefore, as it is about Zacchaeus, the chief of the Publicans and great sinner, that crowd, which believed to be healthy and impeded him to see Jesus, was filled with admiration and considered reproachable that Jesus would enter in the house of a sick. Since Zacchaeus became an object of ridicules as a sinner and they mocked him, when already healthy, the sick, the Lord responded to those scoffers: Today salvation has come. Surely, if the Savior had not entered salvation could not have come to that house. Why are you sick you sick? Also call on Jesus, don’t consider yourself healthy. The sick who receives the physician is a sick with hope (Sermon 174, 3-6).
Let us pray now from the bottom of our heart with the text. I suggest to you the following phrases and questions that may arouse in you the dialogue with God, and, at the same time, may elicit affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not pass to the other phrase or question if you can still continue talking with God in some of them. It is not a matter of finishing this list, but of helping you to pray with those points that are most applicable to your personal experience
- “He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way” (Lk 19:4).
- For St. Augustine Zaccahaeus is a figure of humility, Why do you believe that it is important to be humble in order to be able to see Jesus.
- To see Jesus, Zacchaeus climbed 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?
- Jesus said: “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” (Lk 19:5).
- What place in your heart have prepared to receive Jesus?
- What can you do so that Christ may always be your Guest?
I propose to you some points of affective inner contemplation. Once again, there is no need that you follow everything, but that you choose what is more applicable to your personal experience:
- Contemplate how Zacchaeus runs in order to climb a tree. Consider how the look of Jesus crosses with that of Zacchaeus and how in admiration Jesus stops and says that He wants to stay in his house. Reflect on the discourse that Zacchaeus makes in his house in front of Jesus. Check your affections and feelings.
- Consider how Christ tells you that today He has to come to stay in your house. Reflect on how He comes to your heart and you accept Him within you. Ponder on what you say to Jesus once He is inside you. Adore Christ in you and thank Him that He has come to stay in your heart and ask Him to stay always.
Think about everything that you can share with those who surround you about the experience you have had about God, especially with regard to being like Zacchaeus and receiving Christ in your own heart and in your own life. The following points can help you as guide, in sharing with your community the experience of the lectio divina on this text:
- What have I discovered about God and about myself during this moment of prayer?
- How can I, in these moments of my life, apply this text of the Scriptures? What lights does it offer me? What challenges does it present to me?
- To what does this text of the Scripture concretely commit me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my predominant feeling in this moment of prayer?
G. Final Prayer of St. Augustine
«The Lord also saw Zacchaeus. He was seen and he saw; but if he had not been seen, he could not have seen. Because those He predestined He called” (Sermon 174, 4).