Wis 11:22-12:1; 2Thess 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10
There was a movie few years ago whose title was Manalo, Matalo Mahal Pa Rin Kita (Win or Lose I Still Love You). The leading actor was Cesar Montano and the leading actress was Mikee Cojuangco. In the picture posted outside the movie house, was written: “Ang sugal ay parang pag-ibig, may tumama…at may tinatamaan (Gambling is like love, some hit and others are hit).”
The gospel of today talks about the conversion of Zaccheus. We can say that tumama nga siya (he wins) because he is rich. Everything that he needs materially in life, he has all of them. He owns the five Ps (Pera (Money), Power, Pleasure, Pride and even Problems. No doubt, he is successful in his profession. He was rich but he was not happy. He is lonely because nobody would like to befriend him. He chooses the way that makes him an outcast too. He is the most hated man in his place. His town mates hate him. He is a deceitful man and a traitor to his own country. He is the chief tax collector and he uses his power to amass more money and becomes rich through this means. He accepts under-the-table money (or bribed money) just like some of our Bureau of Internal Revenue personnel today. That’s why some would say that the meaning of B-I-R is not Bureau of Internal Revenue but Bigay Ikaw Regalo (Give a Gift). There are three kinds of bribery involve there: under the table, over the table and include the table.
When he hears about Jesus who welcomes tax collectors and sinners, he is determined to see Jesus and would not let anyone to stop him from doing this. For Zaccheus, to mingle with the crowd was a courageous thing to do because the people would take the chance to get a nudge or kick or push at the little tax collector. To climb a tree during that time is only done by a child or a slave. But he does not mind it. It is not, for him, an opportunity to be missed. I think he would be black and blue with bruises on that day.
Zaccheus takes steps to show to all the community people that he is changed man. When Jesus announces that he would stay that day at his house, immediately he makes a decision. He decides to give half of his money to the poor and makes restitution for the frauds of which he has been self-confessedly guilty. He does this because he finds in Jesus a new and wonderful friend.
I read this poem which talks about money written by Karl-Heinz Doll. I think this is application to Zaccheus and even to us especially. The poem runs this way:
Money can buy bed but not sleep
Money can buy food but not appetite
Money can buy a house but not a home
Money can buy medicine but not health
Money can buy pleasure but not joy
Money can buy books but not wisdom
Money can buy style but not beauty
Money can buy contracts but not trustworthiness
Money can buy weapons but not peace
Money can buy bodyguards but not peace of heart
Money can buy beautiful grave but not eternal life.
Another author said: “Money is an article which may be used as universal passport to everywhere, except heaven and as a universal provider of everything except happiness.”
Just like some of us, Zaccheus was thinking that to have more money, it could give security to oneself and even happiness. Yes, we can love the money but the money in return could not love us. Money has no feeling. It has a callous nature.
When Jesus touches Zaccheus, he makes a choice that he has to change his way of life. May be Jesus is saying to him: “Matalo man, manalo man, mahal pa rin kita. Don’t worry, you know Gaano Kita Kamahal (How Much I Love You) Hanggang May Buhay (Until I Am Alive).” May be the answer of Zaccheus would be like this: “Bakit Ngayon Ka Lang (Why Only Now)?” Jesus answers again: “”Huwag Mong Itanong Kung Bakit (Don’t Ask Why), as long as Nandito Ako Na Umiibig Sa ‘Yo (I’m Here Loving You).”
As what I have said that Zaccheus’ countrymen hate Zaccheus and only Jesus likes him. May be we are also like Zaccheus, the people avoid us because of our attitude and treatment with them. We are hypocrite in front of them. Let’s start changing our way of life.
Are we ready to change our way of life for the better not dominated by any material things especially money? Let us reflect on these words: “Believe what you read. Teach what you believe and live it. Be a Catholic with a backbone.”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle C