In this week's gospel we hear the story of Jesus and Zacchaeus, where Jesus enters Jericho (the town just down the hill from Jerusalem) and spots a person looking at him from up in a tree at the edge of the crowd. This person was Zacchaeus, who we are told is shorter that the other people in the crowd, explaining that he climbed a tree to get a view of Jesus as he passed by. Jesus calls Zacchaeus, whom he had never met, by name to come down from the tree because he would be dining at his house that evening. Stunned, Zacchaeus, who is a tax collector, promises Jesus that he will pay anyone back that he has overtaxed fourfold and give half of his possessions to the poor. And why is this Zacchaeus' response to Jesus' invitation? Because the first thing the crowd says in response to Jesus' invitation is, "Why is he going to eat in the house of a sinner?" Zacchaeus knows his reputation, as a tax collector, a representative of the Roman Empire, and a person ostracized for those reasons from his Jewish community. And Zacchaeus has internalized this reputation, this external messaging from his community, so much that he has begun to believe this about himself. He can't believe that Jesus would want anything to do with him. He is convinced of his unworthiness and believes that he deserves to be ostracized and disconnected from his community. But Jesus' actions fly in the face of this idea of worthiness. Jesus did not see a tax collector, a sinner, or a Roman sympathizer in the tree that day. He saw Zacchaeus. He saw a person. A person who was a beloved of God, just like him, and he knew that above all else this identity connected them inextricably. Jesus' invitation undermined everyone's assumptions about worthiness and human value, declaring that worthiness is something inherent to a person, not something bestowed by others. How are you feeling unworthy of love and connection this week? Who are the people in your life that help you feel your inherent sense of worth and value?
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