This must be one of the most charming stories in the Gospels. There is Zacchaeus, the miserable little man, small time crook, fiddler, tax collector, friend of no one. Sinner. When he comes to the town, no one will let him get anywhere near Jesus. Why should he want to see the Lord? And why would the Lord want to see him?
In a sense, Zacchaeus was a dead man. He was dead to his community. They ignored him and despised him. He was dead in his sins. Why would Jesus want to see him? He was a nobody and a bad nobody at that.
And then Jesus changed everything. He looked up to him, sat in the branches of the tree, and he spoke. He spoke his name. "Zacchaeus" he said. How did he know? We are not told. But we do know that when the name had been spoken the man came down from the tree and Jesus went into his house. No doubt Zacchaeus was called many names by the crowd, sinner, tax collector and worse, but it was his real name, his given name, which Jesus spoke, and it is the saying of the name which changes Zacchaeus. It is like the speaking of the name of Lazarus which calls him from the tomb, and the speaking of her name to Mary Magdalen, which leads her to recognise the risen Jesus.
Names make such a difference. In this month of November remember the dead. We give thanks for the Saints on all saints' day. We pray for the holy souls on all souls day. We remember those who have died in war time on Remembrance Sunday. Next Sunday afternoon we will visit and bless the graves in our local cemetery. Later in the month we will have a special mass to remember all the loved ones who have died in the past year. At each mass over the weekend we present the November list of those who have died.
And it is so important for us to name them. In Westminster Abbey there is the tomb of the unknown soldier. Part of the horror of war is that the body buried there has no name, though he represents so many. Names call us to life. We name a child at baptism. We take a name too at confirmation. Our name is spoken again as we are committed to our final resting place.
And we remember our dead by name. We pray for the holy souls, and in our lists we put name after name after name. Parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, friends and relations, the recently departed and those who have long gone. We write down their names and call them to life in our memories. As Christ calls them to life in his love.
The Lord speaks the name to Zacchaues and enters into his house. We speak the names of our loved ones that they may enter into house of the Lord.