October 29, 2016
“Because he too is a son of Abraham.” (Lk 19:9)
Your brother Zacchaeus: a rich man and a chief tax collector – this gives one impression; a short man, willing to climb a tree to see Jesus – this gives quite another. The outward image and the inner reality do not match. What if my sister is like this little man climbing a tree, whose heart is ready to receive Jesus, but all I can see is the rich tax collector, whose self-assurance I despise and envy in equal measure? And yet I fully expect others to realize that there is more to me than meets the eye. Each of us possesses a pure and guileless inner self, a child of the kingdom. But this is often hidden behind a crusty exterior.
The monastic vow of conversatio morum obliges me to believe, hoping beyond hope, that by the grace of God and my fidelity to the monastic way, conversion is possible, for me, for those I live with, for all people. Zacchaeus is an image of the inner transformation open to all of us. This is no sudden turn-around. Something has been happening inside for a long time now: a growing discontent, a search for something more, an inner battle between the urge for self-protection and self-glorification, and the longing to have done with compromise and give one’s life away as a gift. Zacchaeus is ripe for change, low-hanging fruit just waiting to be picked by a passing Messiah. On this tree, Christ found good fruit awaiting him.
What is your secret, Zacchaeus? How is it that you have become good fruit for the Lord, sweet and juicy? How did you come to be so in touch with your inner need for Christ that you did not stand on your dignity, but climbed that tree to see him? What was it, I wonder, that awakened in you the holy curiosity which drew you to your Savior?
Long before he walked under the sycamore tree, Jesus had been walking through the virgin forest of this man’s heart, preparing the way, making space.
For some people, it may be very difficult to believe in one’s own inner virginity. But for many of us, the difficulty is to acknowledge that there are other forests besides my own in which Christ walks in search of fruit. In spite of all outward indications to the contrary, other people possess an inner world – vast, uncharted, wild in its beauty.