Seeking To See

zacchaeus-1When do we find ourselves up a tree? When we are in a difficult situation and can’t seem to find a way out. The idea is to climb down, to find a solution. In this gospel story, Zacchaeus does the opposite. He goes up a tree to solve his problem. What’s not to like about this Zacchaeus story? All kinds of things feed our imagination. A “wealthy man” throws aside social propriety and does what an enthusiastic little kid would do—he climbs a tree! And he doesn’t pick an easy tree—he climbs a sycamore tree, a very tall tree, one without branches
close to the ground. He chooses a very difficult way to get what he wants: “to see who Jesus was.” And he gets more than he climbed for—Jesus tells him, “Today salvation has come to this house.”
Zacchaeus’s short stature kept him from seeing Jesus with his physical eyes. His ardent desire to encounter Jesus, however, indicates that he had already seen him with the eyes of his heart. Encountering Jesus does not depend upon the goodness of one’s life, but encountering him can bring about conversion of life. Zacchaeus chooses to put his life in right order. For this does Zacchaeus come to salvation. Encountering Jesus and choosing to put our own life in right order brings us to the same salvation. We only need to see Jesus with the eyes of our hearts wide open.
All of us are invited to salvation. Those are saved who seek Jesus (Zacchaeus made the first step when he climbed the sycamore tree to see Jesus) and are open to being sought by him (Jesus stayed at his house). Those are saved who change their lives when they encounter Jesus. Seeing Jesus isn’t enough. Encounter must lead to a faith relationship that makes a difference in our lives. Moreover, since Jesus continues his saving mission through us his followers, we must be equally responsive to others. We must put our own affairs in order and care for those in any need. We must also live in such a way that when others encounter us, they encounter Jesus. [Living Liturgy, 2013]
Most of us don’t have to be so creative or go to the extreme of climbing a tree to encounter Jesus. However, this gospel forewarns us that we ought to not be complacent about our spiritual lives. Zacchaeus reminds us that we must also always be willing to change and grow and be vigilant about our relationships with others, for these are barometers of our relationship with God. Creativity in seeking Jesus might mean that we are innovative in our personal prayer life rather than continually reciting the prayers we might have learned long ago. What prayers might better meet our spiritual needs now so that we can grow in our relationships? It might mean that we keep certain days of the year (perhaps the days of the Triduum or some days during Advent) as a “mini retreat” in order to diligently seek Jesus and a better relationship with him. It might mean that we don’t wait for people to come to us and ask for help but that we notice others’ needs and offer to help before they ask.
In these and countless other ways we encounter Jesus—and salvation comes to our house.
[artist: Joel Whitehead]