Today's Gospel should cause all of us believers to identify with Zacchaeus. We start out small, greedy, and with some curiosity about Jesus. If, motivated by that curiosity, we receive Jesus into our homes and hearts, we will be led to repentance and salvation. Too often, however, we do not receive him even though we think we do. That kind of self-deception prevents spiritual growth.
Thankful for our baptism and confirmation, for our entire incorporation into the life of the Church, we like to see ourselves as basically "good enough" folk who will squeak past the pearly gates eventually by just being more or less who we are. In a few outstanding cases, that might even be true. But it rarely is, and to suppose that it is in our own case is often tantamount to refusing Jesus' self-invitation. For in the spiritual life we are always going either forward or backward; and if imagine that where we are is good enough, we are going backward. We need to recognize how much we, sinners all, have cheated ourselves and others of divine love, and to display God's mercy by making up for that fraud fourfold. I have only slowly been managing the former, and I've barely even begun doing the latter. Some days, it seems like one step forward and two back.
I'd rather imitate the exuberance and generosity of Zacchaeus, who knew just how bad he was but was not ashamed to accept Jesus, who didn't rub it in. Otherwise my penance will be needlessly long.