When was the last time you climbed a tree?  Did you ever fall off a tree branch? When you did climb from a tree and not fall off? How long did you spend time in that tree?  Would you be ready to climb a tree now?

THE LITTLE GUY IN THE BIBLE THAT CLIMBED THE TREE!  There was a little man in the Gospel that did climb a tree. His name was Zaccheus!   Why did he do such a feat?  Years ago there was a cigarette commercial with the theme:  “I would walk a mile for a Camel” which was and still is a brand-name for a type of cigarette.   This commercial obviously was insinuating that that type of cigarette is so good that it was worth extra effort to attain it—to walk the extra mile!

The little guy that climbed the tree named Zaccheus had a far greater motivation than to buy and smoke a cigarette named after the big animal with the hump on his back!   The motivation that drove the little guy to climb the heights should be the same motivation that drives us on to a new life, a converted life, a life in pursuit of sanctity.

CLIMBING FOR JESUS!   The simple reason for the tree-climbing episode of this little man was that Zaccheus really wanted to at least see Jesus, to at least see what Jesus looked like! It was worth the time, the effort, the sweat, possibly blistered palms, and even worth the possibility of the fall! Seeing Jesus was worth it all!

LESSONS TO LEARN FROM THE LITTLE GUY IN THE TREE!  There are many lessons that we can learn from the little guy in the tree. Maybe he will motivate us to find our own tree and climb it despite the obstacles we might find.

1.    NOT BORN A SAINT.   The little guy was no saint!  He was not born a saint, did not always live the life of absolute holiness; still more, people were keenly aware of his faults!  Despite your past, you may have felt little in the eyes of God, have spent little time in drawing close to God, maybe even climbing false trees and going out on the limb of moral disaster, a spiritual “Evil-Knievel!”  Like Zaccheus, time to climb the right tree and look out for Jesus! Try it!

2.    COUNT THE COST OF SEEING JESUS: CLIMB YOUR OWN TREE!  Jesus was in town and Zaccheus wanted to see Jesus, but there was a serious problem, he was just too small. The crowd surrounded Jesus as Jesus moved on to teach the people the Word of God, the Word of salvation. Despite his many efforts, the little guy could not penetrate and break through the crowd. You might even imagine the somewhat comical scene. Zaccheus tries to get in but the bigger people purposely close the gap. Perhaps he got elbowed, bruised, or maybe even knocked down; there the poor little guy is laying in the dust.  If this were to have happened to us, honestly, most likely we would have thrown in the towel and simply called it “quits”! Not in the case of Zaccheus, the little tough guy!

3.    INGENUITY/CREATIVITY, INNOVATIVE! Saint Pope John Paul II spoke about a new springtime of grace as we enter the new millennium. But also the saintly pontiff mentioned the importance of creativity.  The Holy Spirit is a God of surprises as well as a God of infinite and varied creativity. Nowhere else in the Bible do we see a man climbing a tree to attain his end. Poor Absalom got his long heir caught in the tree, as his mule ran off, but that cost him his life. Zaccheus climbed the tree for a very noble and worthy purpose—for the simple reason that he wanted to set his eyes on Jesus! How willing are we to exercise creativity to see Jesus; still more, what tree are we willing to climb to help the many blind people in the world to at least set their eyes on the glorious Person of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Do we have apostolic zeal, a desire to bring souls to see Jesus?

4.    THE BEST INVITATION.  Jesus accepted the invitation to visit the home of Lazarus, Martha and Mary. The disciples on the road to Emmaus also invited Jesus to come with them because the day was coming to a close. However, there is something very different with Zaccheus!  Jesus Himself invites Himself to the home of Zaccheus and the little guy shimmies down the tree exultant and ecstatic for this invitation that Jesus made of Himself. Right now Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart and he desires to sit down and dine with you. (Rev. 3) Precisely in this moment you are challenged to unlock the door of your heart, open up the door totally and let Jesus come in to be with you. He is the best Guest that could ever visit your home. This you can do every time that you pray, but even more profoundly: every time your receive Jesus into your heart in Holy Communion!  “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!”

5.    REPENTANCE, REPARATION AND PUBLIC CONVERSION.  One of the obstacles in the life of this little man was that he was a big money-man! Indeed Zaccheus was a rich-tax collector, most likely materialistic. To make matters worse, possibly he had cheated or defrauded some people in his not always honest business transactions. But look at his reaction to the people who were criticizing him for his shady and underhanded past! The little guy with big bucks makes a huge change to repair for his dishonest past. Namely, Zaccheus would give half of his money to the poor and if he had defrauded anyone then he would give back fourfold, that is to say, four times as much! Imagine the joy in the Face of Jesus who Zaccheus was contemplating, whose Face he would be warmly conversing with at home that night at the dinner banquet!  Another message for us: repentance, reparation and conversion. We are called to do penance for our past sins, to repair for the evil that we have done in the past and this will manifest more than anything else a true conversion of our lives!

In conclusion, may the little man who ends with a huge heart filled with love for Jesus motivate us to be willing to climb the tree, go out on the limb, and even be willing to blister our palms so as to see Jesus in this life and to contemplate His glorious Face for all eternity!