I call today’s Gospel the reading for the short man. I relate to it a lot because I have always been short. Instead of being remembered for his hair color, physique, or heart, he is recognized as being short of stature. But what he lacked in height, he made up for in his faith.
I think today’s Gospel gives us the perfect model for evangelization. Do you ever approach someone, and the only goal you have in speaking to them is to try to get them to turn away from sin and towards Christ? While conversion is always good, I think we should approach people with reverence simply because they are human and deserve respect, love, and interaction before we approach them with an agenda.
Here in the Gospel, we see a simple way of evangelizing. You notice that first, there is an interest. Zacchaeus had heard something about Jesus that sparked his interest. Something was important enough for him to stop and take a look at what was going on. Jesus was performing miracle after miracle, and the word was spreading. In today’s world, I think miracles can be a powerful introduction to the Gospel, and they happen every day. We may not be as in tune with them as we should be, but sit down for a second and reflect how God has done miracles in your life, and then share them. They may be the introduction to the Gospel that someone needs to spark an interest. “A renewal of preaching can offer believers, as well as the lukewarm and the non-practising, new joy in the faith and fruitfulness in the work of evangelization. The heart of its message will always be the same: the God who revealed his immense love in the crucified and risen Christ.” (Evangelii Gaudium 11)
Next, we see an invitation. Jesus notices the interest in Zacchaeus’ heart and invites him into a relationship. You notice that Jesus does not invite him for the sole purpose of conversion, but he wants to enter into his life and walk with him. As Christians, we are called to follow and imitate Christ, but also to invite others into that relationship as well. This could be around food, fellowship, service, or one of the Sacraments. There are many ways to make an invitation, but the important thing is that we don’t leave people in their curiosity, but we invite them deeper. We invite them to move from interest to experience. “The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” (Evangelii Gaudium 120)
Then finally, we see conversion. You notice here that we do not know what was said that caused conversion in his heart. Maybe nothing was said at all, perhaps just the presence of Jesus was enough to covert Zacchaeus. I think we can learn from this greatly. We often approach evangelization where we think if we just say the right thing or make the correct defense or give the best argument that people will turn to God. This takes conversion away from God and puts it completely on us. But we have to believe that God still works today and wants people to draw closer to his heart. It is not about us; it is about opening people up and letting the Holy Spirit actively work. “The salvation which God has wrought, and the Church joyfully proclaims, is for everyone. God has found a way to unite himself to every human being in every age. He has chosen to call them together as a people and not as isolated individuals. No one is saved by himself or herself, individually, or by his or her own efforts. God attracts us by taking into account the complex interweaving of personal relationships entailed in the life of a human community. This people which God has chosen and called is the Church.” (Evangelii Gaudium 113)
All are given salvation through Christ. We can help make sure they are interested, invited, and open to the workings of the Holy Spirit.
From all of us here at Diocesan, God Bless!
Tommy Shultz is a Solutions Evangelist for Diocesan. In that role, he is committed to coaching parishes and dioceses on authentic and effective Catholic communication. Tommy has a heart and a flair for inspiring people to live their faith every day. He has worked in various youth ministry, adult ministry, and diocesan roles. He has been a featured speaker at retreats and events across the country. His mission and drive have been especially inspired by St. John Paul II’s teachings. Tommy is blessed to be able to learn from the numerous parishes he visits and pass that experience on in his presentations. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.