Homily: Keep Climbing the Tree

November 20, 2018

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way. (Luke 19:1-10)

The following homily was originally delivered at a school Mass at Guerin Catholic High School in November 2017. The Mass was a celebration of their Because We Are Grateful Thanksgiving outreach efforts – collecting canned goods, clothing, and other necessities for a number of charities in Central Indiana: 

One thing to keep in mind as you reflect on this familiar gospel story of Zacchaeus: It’s not about being seen; it’s about climbing the tree.

Climbing the tree is about seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus, attempting to lock eyes with Him. He can already see us, but our effort shows Jesus we want Him in our lives.

You might have noticed that when Jesus saw the active faith of Zacchaeus, there was no fanfare. Instead, he immediately put him to work. Climbing the tree showed a desire for a relationship and the faithful have a call to duty

If we truly want to deepen our relationship with Him, it means getting to work.

The other people lining the streets were faces in the crowd. They were meeting the minimum expectations by being there, but nothing more. It was Zacchaeus who chose to climb the tree.


Recently, I found my neighbor on the floor of her home when I went to check on her. I called 911 and Shirley was rushed to the hospital. My wife, Carol, and I went to see her that night. She was in bad shape.

I immediately went to work checking on things for Shirley. Looking around her room – Does she have her glasses? Does she need us to bring her some clothes? Does the nurse know Shirley has diabetes?

Meanwhile, I glanced over at my wife and there she was at Shirley’s bedside. She was holding Shirley’s hand and stroking her hair. She leaned down next to her ear and said to her, “You look so beautiful. Do you know how many people love you? Do you know how much we love you? How much God loves you?”

Carol was climbing the tree. She was deepening her relationship with Jesus by being Christ to Shirley.

What I was doing was good, but I was just a face in the crowd. I was checking things off of a to-do list. I failed to provide what Shirley really needed.


Through your Because We Are Grateful program, the Guerin Catholic community is climbing the tree. Your unselfish outreach to those in need is deepening your relationship with Jesus. Thank you for your effort!

However, here is something to keep in mind: Zacchaeus committed to giving half of his money to the poor and to making amends to those he extorted. Doing those things certainly deepened his relationship with Jesus. However, if he was satisfied with that, if he stopped there, the relationship would have eventually grown stagnant.

We can never stop. Our work is never done.

You might be tempted to say, “There, we collected all of these items. Our work is finished.” If you say that, you don’t understand how Jesus operates. He does not provide a checklist – His work is ongoing.

Our work is never done. We have to keep climbing the tree!

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