Why did Zacchaeus wish to see Jesus? Possibly one of the most hated men in Jericho, chief tax collector for the Romans, his spoils taken from the labor of his own people, a tool of the oppressor Empire – he wants to see this man Jesus, so much so that he climbs into a tree to get a good look.
Jesus sees him, calls him down, and says, Hurry for I must stay at your house today!
Zacchaeus hurries down and immediately welcomes Jesus. Soon after he declares that he will give half of his possessions to those who are poor and repay four-fold all acts of fraud.
Augustine of Hippo in his Sermon 63 writes about this encounter. Jesus saw Zacchaeus and after telling him to come down, he says, “You are hanging there, but I will not keep you in suspense. I will not, that is, put you off. You wished to see Me as I passed by, today shall you find Me dwelling at your house.”
Zacchaeus in Hebrew means Pure or Innocent. Jesus said Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. Jesus saw into Zacchaeus’ heart and called to him. And Zacchaeus was ready, and he followed.
Evelyn Underhill in her book Mysticism writes: To be a spectator of Reality is not enough. The awakened subject is not merely to perceive transcendent life, but to participate therein; and for this, a drastic and costly life-changing is required.
Zacchaeus had an awakening, a conversion from his reality into a new life. Prior to this moment, we do not know his emotional or mental state; however, we know that this was a transcendent moment. From it came Jesus’ pronouncement of not only the sins of Zacchaeus but for his entire household. And Zacchaeus became a disciple of Jesus.
Zacchaeus acted impulsively, following blindly a yearning to see. Instead, not only did he see but he was seen. The material cost may have seemed great to some. To Zacchaeus the loss of his material wealth was the profit of his life.
I wrote this reflection for a Deacon gathering this past Monday. Instead of sharing this, I asked to talk about the shooting on that same day, October 24, 2022, at Central Visual and Performing Arts high school in Saint Louis, MO and the resulting deaths. My son graduated from there and my youngest grandson attended there for 1 ½ years as a freshman and sophomore. I found out later that my grandson knew the young man who killed and was killed. They were friends at that time. Both my boys knew and loved the teacher. My neighbor across the street works with the mom of the young woman who was killed.
As my heart ached with the sorrow of the whole of these lives lost, it further broke when I read Orlando’s note, what the police called his “manifesto”. I attempted to unveil the sorrow in my heart for this lonely, lost boy on social media. Some rallied with me; some railed against me.
I felt shaken to see how many did not see the connection between Hunger (lack of food, love, mental health care, etc) and violence; how so few comprehended that while all could feel the overall horror of the event some could also see clearly the mental anguish that caused it or at least contributed to the event; and to see how others simply could not connect the idea of love or lack of love to the cause of the event. And very few indeed seem to see that there was most likely a long simmering anger and the part that plays in violence.
I wonder if Orlando simply wanted to be seen. I wonder how long he had wanted to be seen and understood. A friend of mine suggested that in his anguished state, he returned to the only place he had felt seen and safe. Strange thinking yet so is killing with purpose.
Some say that he should have sought help yet how easy it is for those of us on this side of that loneliness to make that statement. It is too simplistic to state that others have felt the same way and didn’t kill anyone (boots and bootstraps ideology). There is such an absence of unconditional love for this young man, this 19-year-old boy.
I do not understand the lack of love, the lack of mercy, the lack of forgiveness. Maybe it will come. The pain is so fresh, the disbelief that it could happen here too new.
As for me, I cannot help but wallow in my own pity, my own knowing that it could have been one of my boys that did the shooting. Not that I think they would or could but does anyone every think that??? Both of them lived with trauma and it formed their young years. For even in the knowing that one is loved, one can still feel unseen and misunderstood. That, in addition to post or ongoing trauma plus the ability to obtain a weapon of mass destruction are equations for terror and horror. If mental health concerns are also there (and aren’t these often where there is trauma?) that only adds more to the total. It is not simply a young man went crazy, grabbed a gun and killed a bunch of people.
Are we so disconnected from the Gospel of Jesus that we cannot see how important it is for us to see those who feel themselves to be invisible? To listen to the person? That a person is often unable to seek the help they need, that we are to be there regardless of how difficult it may be or how many times that person may have said no thanks?
Had there been one person in his past who was able to say that they had tried to help him, and he turned them away, then that person may feel justified. As for the rest, someone should have seen him. Someone should have heard him. Someone should have cared.
The NRA and the politicians owned by the gun lobby are a big problem but not the only problem. They may not even be the biggest problem.
Augustine & Underhill quotes from http://edgeofenclosure.org/proper26c.html
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