A few years ago I was on retreat and the retreat director gave me this story of Zacchaeus for prayer. There was one thing that struck me and continue to be a source of prayer: what was His real reason for climbing the tree? Yes, he was short and there was a crowd, but he could have just stood in the front. My thought is he climbed the tree to see Jesus, but also to not get involved or worse yet, have to really talk with Jesus. By staying above the fray, Zacchaeus was able to not get involved.
We can all be like Zacchaeus at times. I want to see Jesus; I want to know Jesus, but I don’t want to have to jump into the fray and the messiness of the Christian Live. To be a Christian is to be in the midst of the crowd of humanity; smelly, getting our hands dirty, putting sweat equity into changing this world and letting God use us, by the power of grace, to build the Kingdom.
Authentic discipleship, no matter our tradition, means jumping together into the fray and committing ourselves to the common goal of the work of the Kingdom. We cannot truly follow Jesus if we hang out in a tree and remain spectators. Pope Francis has told us: But more than that, we should not wait for people to come to us where we are, but like the shepherd who goes out to find the lost sheep, we need to be going out to encounter people where they are, in the circumstances of their lives and situations.” He spoke these words to a group of priests, but I think this is the challenge to all Christians.
In all our congregations, we talk about the lack of numbers; the lack of young people involved. Imagine if we all committed ourselves in this area to make an outreach to all the youth and younger families….Imagine if we went to them and showed them what a Christian is. Imagine if they experienced each of our communities knowing they would be accepted no matter who they were or what the present life’s were about. To me, it sounds just what Jesus did in the Gospel: Come down here, I want to stay at your house”.
Is this all mapped out for us to do? Of course not. God gives all of the grace to make it happen. As we read in the book, Embracing the Uncertainty, Magrey writes that Jesus had already looked into Zacchaeus heart and was seeking him out to be his disciple. Jesus is doing the same for us today, God takes the initiative and seeks us out. We all think we look for God; but God has already found us; if we come down out of the trees we hid in, we will see that God has been there all along. He has already seen us, just like Zacchaues
Here is where our response needs to be. We need to be willing to go into the places no one else will go because those places may not fit into what we think Christians “should” look like. Jesus doesn’t call the perfect; after all, the perfect don’t need God. Jesus calls the imperfect, the sinner, those society forgets or ignores to discipleship. There is a saying, I think captures this point, “the church is not the palace of the saint, but, the home of the sinner”.
I guess I am advocating coming down out of the trees of our isolation and fear and work together with God’s grace to build the Kingdom. Do we need a plan? Do we need to know where we are going? God has already given us the plan; he will walk with us in our uncertainty, he will lead us to the places we need to go……we just need to come down out of our trees and let Jesus show us the way.