The Gospel we proclaim this Sunday features a rather enigmatic figure, one whom we read about only in this Gospel passage: Zacchaeus. What can we learn from this story of this “short-in-stature” man, a chief tax collector, a man who changes his life, who climbs a sycamore tree because he was “seeking to see who Jesus was?” I think that we can learn two powerful lessons. First, Christ desires our salvation, giving us again and again chances to come to him, to learn from him, to know him as our Lord and Savior. Second, what are we willing to do to see this Jesus, this one whom we have come to know as our friend, our brother, our loving redeemer? What are we willing to risk?

First, do we recognize that Our Lord Jesus wants our salvation? Jesus knows us, inside and out. He knows our faults and failings, he knows our sins. He knows all the bad that we have done; he knows all the bad intentions of our wills. He has seen us in our ugliness, in our brokenness, and still, he loves us. Yes, Jesus, he who is the Word Incarnate, the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, he who is in his very Person God Almighty, the Savior of all mankind, deeply, truly, madly loves us. Yes, God knows us inside and out and still he loves us.

This Jesus loves us! He opens his arms on the Cross in an embrace of love and in the red rain that is his Precious Blood washes us clean! The Lord wants one thing: our salvation. That is his very nature. Jesus’ name means “God Saves” in Hebrew. What does this tell us about Jesus? It means that it is he who was sent to save us from our sins. The title “Christ” is Greek for “anointed one” or “Messiah.” So, if we were to put the name of the Lord Jesus together with the title or adjective most properly and most commonly given to him, we could see that he is JESUS CHRIST, or “the Messiah who saves!” In theological terms, we call the study of who Jesus is “Christology” and we call the study of what he does as “Soteriology,” namely the study of how Jesus who is God saves us. When we say the name, Jesus Christ, we are making a statement of faith! When we say the name, Jesus Christ, we learn all we need to know about Jesus. It is in who he is to save us!

Second, little Zacchaeus, a man of wealth, a man of means, is willing to embarrass himself, climbing the sycamore tree to see the Lord Jesus, to view this man about whom he has heard so much. He is willing to “go out on a limb,” risking his pride, risking his reputation, to see Jesus. Granted, Zacchaeus is a man who, as a tax collector, is not respected by his own Jewish community. He is considered to be a cheat, thought to be a collaborator with the oppressors, the Romans. But, in reality, Zacchaeus probably was living a rather comfortable life. He has all he needs. And with all this in mind, this little man shows great spirit to risk his way of life to see and follow the Lord.

What are we willing to risk to follow the Lord? It is a dangerous thing to posit belief in a God whom we cannot see. It is a scary thing to live our lives in accordance with the teachings of a man who lived over 2,000 years ago. What if we’re wrong? What if we spend our entire lives trying to live good lives of service and love and ultimately find out that there is nothing else, that we could have done whatever we wanted, even the most immoral of activities?

The question needs to be asked: Do I believe, really truly, deeply believe that there really is a God? Do I believe that this God has revealed Himself to the world in the Person of Christ? Do I really believe that the Lord Jesus’ life continues on today in His Body, the Church? Am I willing to risk it, putting aside my fear and uncertainty to follow Christ?

This fear can exist not only in questions of the existence of God, the revelation of Christ and the necessity of the Church in general but can also be extended to our own lives. If God exists, why should He love me with all my faults, with all my sins, with all my problems and anxieties?

This fear and doubt can extend to our life choices. We can doubt ourselves in our relationships with others – being afraid to let others into our lives, being afraid to love, to be loved and to be vulnerable. Every time we open our mouths, we are being judged. What if the person with whom I share my thoughts betrays me, mocks me or misunderstands me? Am I worthy of the friendship that is offered to me by another? Am I lovable?

Overcoming the fear that exists in us is essential for our lives of faith. The only way to do so is to keep on going, gazing intently on Jesus – the way, the truth and the life for us. If we trust in him who cannot deceive or be deceived, if we are open to his healing and trust in the plan that he has for our lives, we will know his healing and his peace. This week, be like Zacchaeus! Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb to see Jesus who loves us and who desires nothing more than to save us!