By Mel Jasmin
The gospel about Zacchaeus is a gospel of mercy and forgiveness – traits that each Christian is called to do.
Many Christians have read and sung the story of Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, who encountered Jesus from the branches of a sycamore tree. This short New Testament story speaks volumes to the church about the importance of a just distribution of wealth in our world.
Zacchaeus had grown very wealthy by taking advantage of his position of tax collector. No doubt he had cheated people along the way, after all, that’s just the way business was done. The power of the Roman Empire backed up his enterprise. But for some reason, Zacchaeus was interested in seeing and hearing Jesus. His encounter with Jesus was transformative; it gave him a new commitment to economic justice. Zacchaeus volunteered to give half of his wealth to the poor and to pay back anyone he had defrauded four times the amount he took unfairly.
Jesus response was, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Jesus accepted Zacchaeus’ repentance and his self-imposed penitence as signs of his salvation.
This story challenges us today to consider how just our society’s economic system is and the role we play in any injustices. In recent years, the rich have grown richer and the poor and not-so-poor have grown poorer. In the Philippines, election time is again coming and candidates are again masking themselves as pro-poor.
May we become more discerning who to vote for. May God guide us always in choosing our next leaders.