Last week’s gospel showed two men “entering” the temple, the self-righteous Pharisee and the contrite Publican.  This Sunday Jesus “enters” the house of a sinner, the head of the tax collectors, Zacchaeus (Lk. 19:1-10). I wish to focus on this movement of “entering” that two consecutive Sundays bring before us for our reflection and prayer.
What does it mean for Jesus to enter a house, the house of a man who is avoided by his neighbors and ostracized by his faith?
First, there is a direct intention on the part of Jesus to enter that house.  It must have struck Zacchaeus that the first words from Jesus disclosed his desire to visit his place.  “Come down quickly for today I must stay at your house.”
The gospel describes the reaction of the tax collector, how he jumped quickly from his treetop perch and welcomed Jesus with joy.  He did not expect Jesus to be interested in him, to call him by name, to want to see his house.  Surely, he must have expected a reprimand, a moralizing sermon, a wagging finger from this holy Master. But this was totally beyond his expectations!
Other people reacted differently.  They were shocked at Jesus’ action of entering a sinner’s house and eating with him and his family.  So different was Jesus’ intention from those of the people around him.
Second, there was Jesus’ desire to befriend Zacchaeus. Jesus dropped by for a conversation and a hearty meal.  But he also wanted to know Zacchaeus better and listen to the beating of his heart. Jesus knew the man was a professed sinner, and was comfortable with this life.  But Jesus felt that in the sinner’s heart, there was an openness to God that was waiting to be tapped.
And moved by all this, maybe even delirious at his unique experience, Zacchaeus promised the almost impossible:  he was giving his money to the poor, he was willing to pay the people from whom he extorted money.  The visit of Jesus into his house was worth more than all his wealth taken together.
This is what “entering” meant for Jesus.  He wanted to enter the house, but most importantly, the inner house – heart, of his new friend.  And starting with this friendship, a new life unfolds for Zacchaeus and his family.
Such is the gentleness of Jesus, his mercy, his concern for our salvation.  The first reading from Wisdom (ch. 11) captures it well: you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!
Let Jesus enter your house, your heart today.  Invite him and he will come. And allow him to say to you: today salvation has come to this house.