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This article was published in the Summer 1996 issue of The Journal.

COME DOWN QUICKLY! 

From an address given to the Versailles meeting of Foyers Mixtes Francophones in November 1995 by Fr. Rene Beaupere OP, who re-read Luke 19:1-10 in the light of the situation of interchurch families today. 

There are no direct parallels. Few of us are tax-collectors, and no doubt we should like to be as rich as Zacchaeus. 

But like him, we are small people in the crowd. To see Jesus, and to be seen by him, Zacchaeus ran ahead of the procession and climbed a tree. It wasn't done! A highly paid civil servant didn't run in the streets! Even less did he scramble up into a tree like a monkey 

But Jesus saw him. He understood. With no preliminaries, he told Zacchaeus to come down quickly and be ready to welcome him into his home. 

The littlefoyers mixtes that we are have done things that aren't done. We have run ahead of the ecclesial processions - even looked down on them from above. The danger in doing this is that we may pass judgement on those below. Zacchaeus didn't; foyers mixtes may have done. 

In any case, here we are in our tree, and Jesus is below. "Come down quickly!" Come and rejoin the procession with me. There may be mitres and pectoral crosses, but the lame and the lepers are with me too. It's not a model procession; it's my people, my church. 

So am I saying that Jesus is re-integrating foyers mixtes into the procession? Yes - but in order to give them a priceless gift. 

Zacchaeus, said Jesus, I'm coming to your home. Note: today not tomorrow; to stay not to look in. 

Sinner as he was, Zacchaeus may have hoped for a look from Jesus, a smile, a wave of the hand. He may even have imagined he might make a gesture - give to the poor, make restitution - so Jesus might think better of him. 

But never could he have imagined that Jesus would invite himself to his home with such simplicity, with the speed which must have been quite an embarrassment to Mrs Zacchaeus. For while Mr Zacchaeus was settling his accounts with Jesus, by confession and conversion, Mrs Zacchaeus was busy preparing the meal. It wasn't an everyday occurrence to welcome a rabbi, the rabbi of Nazareth! 

Theologians tell us it is Jesus who receives us at his table. But today it is the Zacchaeus couple who welcome Jesus, who prepare their home, their table and their hearts for the feast in honour of their unexpected guest. 

As I think of the meeting of Jesus and Zacchaeus, sealed by that thanksgiving meal, I ask myself if we foyers mixtes think enough about the fact that - even if it is Jesus who presides over the Eucharistic meal - it is up to us to prepare the table, with all that that involves, and for each of us personally to prepare ourselves for that eucharistic sharing. On these two points, are we sure we are without sin? Are we sufficiently converted? 

"Today I want to stay with you. " Are we ready to receive together at our eucharistic table that visitor still unknown, even if, as for the disciples on the Emmaus road, our hearts burn within us as we begin to recognise him while he opens his Word to us? 

Of course that impromptu meal shared by Jesus and the taxcollector did not please the Jewish authorities - no more than the relations between Jesus and the foyers mixtes always please the ecclesial processions. 

But do they realise that what allows the friendship between Jesus and Zacchaeus is the conversion of heart of the taxcollector. He too, explains Luke, is a son of Abraham because - although a sinner - he is forgiven. 

Yes, foyers mixtes sometimes do things which are not done; they take short-cuts by climbing into trees and leaping over barriers; they have won some rights and enjoy the fruits of them without shame. None of that is to be condemned so long as they remain Christians, forgiven sinners, members of the churches together on pilgrimage, for whom the criterion of belonging is conversion of heart in the light of and by the grace of the One to whom we must open wide our door. Amen.