The Perspective of Zacchaeus

3 November 2013: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Photo by Bok Pioquid, Ateneo High School
Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Psalm 145; Thess 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10

For this Sunday’s reflection, may I suggest that we take the position of Zacchaeus in the Gospel today? By identifying with Zacchaeus, we will find ourselves desiring to see Jesus personally, not just hearing about Him. And if that desire grows in us, we will eventually find ourselves climbing our sycamore trees in order to see Him among the crowd.

Zacchaeus climbed the tree to gain a perspective. Sometimes when we are “in the crowd” our vision is limited: we will not be able to see where we’re going or whom we are following. In a profound way, we need to see the world in another angle. We use the phrase, “to see the bigger picture” but that phrase is not enough because it lacks an important element found in the Gospel today: Who do you want to see? Here, Zacchaeus was clear: He wanted to see by his very own eyes Jesus whom people have been talking about.

The Jesuits use a slogan: “Finding God in all Things.” This phrase is indeed an attitude of seeing things in the perspective of Zacchaeus: to encounter Jesus personally in the maddening crowd. A recent document of the Society of Jesus adds: “To find divine life at the depths of reality is a mission of hope” (General Congregation 35, Decree 2). It says that we have to “trace the footprints of God everywhere” since we believe that God is in all places, situations, activities, events, and in every nook and cranny of the world. The first reading from the Book of Wisdom affirms this: “You spare all things, O Lord and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things!” (Wisdom 11:26-12:1) And therefore, if we are able to see God in all these, we are living out a culture of hope. We are proclaiming to the world that in the road of death, we can still see the footprints of God!

Zacchaeus would eventually make a 360-degree turn when Jesus looks up to him and calls him by name. And what would make it more personal than to invite Himself to his house? Someone who has the audacity to invite himself to another is the friend of the unsuspecting host! It is like saying, “Why don’t you treat me to lunch!” You don’t say this to your boss or to a total stranger! And that was what Jesus was declaring: I am a friend of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, the one all of you regard as a sinner!

This attitude of Jesus puts many moral police of today to shame! Pope Francis said that what the world needs today are shepherds, those who would accompany the flock in their journey home. He would also encourage all --- not just priests --- to go out to the flock and not wait for them to come!If we take the position of Jesus, we can say that it was Jesus who “heard” about Zacchaeus (that’s why He knew his name!) and thus wanted to be with Zacchaeus once He reaches Jericho! He came for Zacchaeus and recognized him right away when he climbed the tree. Both Jesus and Zacchaeus have been searching for each other! And Zacchaeus made it easier for Jesus by placing himself at His very route.

The young of today are like Zacchaeus --- just like us. They are also searchers. In the midst of the rapid change of technology, the availability of information, the many distractions that abound, they are in need of finding the ‘divine life’ in the very depths of the times. Among the piles of information, which among them is true and meaningful? In the changing world, what are the things that are forever? Among all digital friends, who among them are my real friends? When we look for meaning, purpose and direction, we are discerning Jesus among the crowd!

We are therefore missioned to accompany the young, and many others, as shepherds led by the Shepherd. To be with them in their journey means that we are physically present, caring and calling them by name! People need to encounter us, not just virtually but most importantly, face-to-face. The present generation loath to be one among the anonymous; we need to feel and taste that we belong concretely to someone and to Someone! And to do that, we should find ourselves in the sycamore trees among all the “Zacchaueses” of the world. Because, we too are one of them.

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