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Zacchaeus was a tax-collector, and a corrupt one at that - as we know from his confession that he had defrauded. He was therefore much hated by his fellow-citizens. So they were scandalised when Christ went to his house. Being short in height, in order to see Christ, Zacchaeus had had to climb up a sycamore tree. Seeing this budding faith, Christ called him, and Zacchaeus repented, restoring up to four times what he had taken unjustly from others.

In Zacchaeus the Church sees the symbol of those who are too short to see Christ. By too short, I do not mean physically short, but short in the spiritual sense, that he was of short spiritual stature, that he lacked spiritual understanding. Realising this, Zacchaeus had had to climb up into a tree, not just physically, but again in a spiritual sense too. The climbing of the sycamore tree symbolises spiritually the growth that we all have to put on in order to behold Christ, to realise how spiritually short we all are, to gain spiritual understanding and so start living by the Gospel commandments. For this sycamore tree is the symbol of that other tree, the tree of salvation, the Cross of Christ. We cannot grow spiritually, if we do not first go up onto the Cross of Christ, for the Cross is the only place where we can find salvation and so resurrection.

It should be said, however, that there is a situation far worse than that of Zacchaeus. At least Zacchaeus had realised that he was spiritually short. And it was thanks to this realisation that he knew that he had to climb in order to find salvation. There are others who, unlike Zacchaeus, are so 'tall' that they cannot find salvation. Here again, of course I do not speak of those who are physically tall, but of those who are spiritually 'tall'.

I now speak of those who imagine that they are so 'spiritual', so knowledgeable about spiritual matters, that they do not need Christ, that they can look down on Him and His saving Church and simple Faith. There are the people who say that they no longer need to come to Christ and His Church, that they are 'above all that'. Now that they have all sorts of knowledge, they no longer need to worship God, or to thank Him, or to ask Him for any help. From the height of their towering pride, they no longer recognise Christ and His Church, they can no longer see the reality of their own failings, their spiritual shortness.

These people too have climbed up into a tree. But it is not the tree of Christ, the Cross. It is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the tree which led to the Fall from Paradise. In climbing that tree, they have condemned themselves, they have cursed themselves to a life without Christ and His Church, without His guiding and saving commandments. They have condemned themselves to the history of suffering of humanity, to wars and disease, to the fallen world. This self-chosen fate without Christ and His Church describes for example most of the history of twentieth-century humanity.

However, even to these haughty and contemptuous people, Christ still offers His outstretched hand. In their self-inflicted suffering, they too still have opportunities to come to repentance, they too can still see Christ and know the joy of Zacchaeus, as Christ says to him: 'This day is salvation come to this house'. Through the mercy of Christ, salvation is always open to all, the long, the short and the tall, to all statures, to all races. In this world it is never too late for salvation. And there is no situation in which salvation is impossible, no place where Christ's outstretched hand cannot be accepted. But there is one pre-condition of this salvation - that of repentance, the repentance shown by Zacchaeus. Let us all come to know that repentance and the joy that it brings, that today Christ may also come to our house.

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