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  • Fr. John Jennings

Our Sacred Stories ~ Conversion: Seeking, Questioning & the Invitation of Jesus

Zacchaeus was a happy man. In the story found in Luke’s Gospel, he is portrayed as an enthusiastic fellow who was searching for something – a seeker (Luke 19:1-10). This is the root of all conversion. It begins with searching. In order to change anything, we first have to be questioning the status quo. We first have to be looking for another way to do something or be something.

In the story of Zacchaeus, we find two types of people. First of all, there is Zacchaeus himself. Luke seems to go out of his way to offer details about him. He describes him as short in stature. He had lots of things that were blocking his ability to see what he was searching for. At the same time, Luke presents him as wanting to see Jesus. Something about Jesus had moved him to want to seek him out and connect with him. He was a man with many questions. With all that blocked him in his quest, he used his enthusiasm and inquisitiveness to go out of his way to see the object of his searching, his questioning.

The story in Luke has a second type of person. The crowd are portrayed as being an obstacle for the seeker, for Zacchaeus. More importantly, Luke describes how they grumbled because Zacchaeus was regarded as a sinner. The presumption might be that he was different from them since they had it all together. Unlike Zacchaeus, they had no question only certainty. As far as they were concerned, they did not need to change in any way. And in their minds that sinner simply could not change. Thus, for Jesus to go to the house of this sinner was just wrong.

So what? Zacchaeus went out of his way, in his quest to answer the questions he had about Jesus. In response, Jesus invited him to come closer. In fact, he came directly to the man and entered his house to dine with him – for Zacchaeus had questions. He was seeking. Jesus did not go to the crowd. He left them grumbling – for the crowd had not questions. They were not searching for a change of heart, because they saw no need for it.

This is a story of a conversion. Jesus in message and mission invites those who would follow, those who would be disciples to have a change of heart. In order to experience such a change, we have to recognize that things are not yet right with us, we need to change. Conversion is that process by which we turn our lives around, to become someone new. As in the story of Zacchaeus, such a conversion begins with questions and wondering about them.

This conversion, as a disciple of Jesus, is a life-long process. Our life constantly takes us through new experiences, we will constantly find ourselves wondering about how to understand. If we cannot recognize that there are always questions, we will be like the crowd – thinking we have it all together and have no need to be touched by Jesus’ ongoing invitation.

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