“So [Zacchaeus] ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” (Luke 19:4)

Perhaps Zacchaeus was feeling guilty about ripping people off. Or perhaps – just out of curiosity –  he simply wanted to get a gander at a very popular rabbi who was passing through town named Jesus. In any event, the resourceful Zacchaeus – whom we are told was short – made the effort to climb up a sycamore tree to get a good look at Jesus.

Dear friend, this was to be an amazing day for Zacchaeus (and my words are an understatement); for the Lord who loves souls stopped at the spot where the tree was, looked up, and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). The Gospel story continues:

“So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone  to be the guest of a sinner.’ 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 19:6-10)

Zacchaeus made the effort to place himself in the pathway of Jesus, and Jesus changed his life forever! This is what I call the Zacchaeus principle: – when we place ourselves in the pathway of the Lord good things are bound to happen! Think of what happened to the Samaritan woman when she went to draw water from the well, and ended up meeting Jesus there. Think also of the two men who fell into the company of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

Now the Zacchaeus principle is a great principle to apply to your children: they need to meet Jesus in a personal encounter. There is a story out on CD about a concerned Grandma (or Aunt) who paid to send her very wayward grandson to a teen conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville – and now that young man is a priest. I know a young lady who went to a similar conference and underwent a profound experience of God’s love for her. The point is that these people placed themselves in the pathway of the Lord, and they were anointed by a special experience of His presence. While a student at  Notre Dame, Ralph Martin, somewhat skeptical of religion, made the effort to go to a Cursillo, and, well, you know the rest of his story*. And Ralph’s partner, Peter Herbeck, was taken as a twenty-year old to a Charismatic conference at Notre Dame where he underwent a profound conversion to the Lord. There are many other similar stories.

Our kids are growing up in a culture that is becoming increasingly ambivalent – even hostile – to the Catholic faith. There are many paths in the culture that will lead them quite easily in the wrong direction. Let us be like Zacchaeus. Let us make the effort to see where Jesus may be passing by to meet our kids – at a conference, at a camp, at a Church event, at adoration, at Confession, at a movie advancing Christian principles, at a youth retreat, at a talk, or some other event. We can’t force an experience of Jesus on our kids. But we can put them in the path of Jesus, and pray for them, and leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit. After all, what do we want more for our kids than to get them to Heaven?

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

* If you are unfamiliar with the “conversion” stories of Ralph Martin and Peter Herbeck, check out their website, . Ralph Martin’s story can be read in a short pamphlet entitled, “My Five Most Important decisions.” Peter Herbeck recounts his story in an excellent book on the Holy Spirit, When the Spirit Comes in Power. Image at Wikipedia (Public Domain).

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