Gregory of Nazianzus: Be a Zaccheus
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:8-10
“Does a poor man approach you? Remember how poor you once were, and how rich you were made. One in want of bread or of drink, perhaps another Lazarus, is cast at your gate; respect the Sacramental Table to which you have approached, the Bread of which you have partaken, the Cup in which you have communicated, being consecrated by the Sufferings of Christ.
If a stranger fall at your feet, homeless and a foreigner, welcome in him Him who for your sake was a stranger, and that among His own, and who came to dwell in you by His grace, and who drew you towards the heavenly dwelling place. Be a Zaccheus, who yesterday was a Publican, and is today of liberal soul; offer all to the coming in of Christ, that though small in bodily stature you may show yourself great, nobly contemplating Christ.
A sick or a wounded man lies before you; respect your own health, and the wounds from which Christ delivered you. If you see one naked clothe him, in honour of your own garment of incorruption, which is Christ, for as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. If you find a debtor falling at your feet, tear up every document, whether just or unjust.
Remember the ten thousand talents which Christ forgave you, and be not a harsh exactor of a smaller debt—and that from whom? From your fellow servant, you who were forgiven so much more by the Master. Otherwise, you will have to give satisfaction to His mercy, which you would not imitate and take as your copy.”
Gregory of Nazianzus in The Oration on Holy Baptism 31, preached at Constantinople 6 January 381.
What I love about the excerpt from Gregory’s sermon is the passion with which he calls us to “Be a Zaccheus” who one day aimed to accumulate for himself and the next day distributed half to the poor and the rest for doing justice.
Scholars note that the function of the language implies that he held nothing back from God. This causes Jesus to celebrate. Think of the debt Christ paid for us and let us go and do likewise. Let’s each “be a Zaccheus” where we are!