The story of Zacchaeus in Luke’s Gospel tells of a man whose curiosity and eagerness compelled him to climb up a tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus. By climbing the tree, he doesn’t just overcome his short stature, but the real problem of selfishness, which keeps him isolated from the people of Jericho and causes him to exploit others for his own gain.
I think Zacchaeus’s limitations are a metaphor for the burdens that can block you and me from truly loving ourselves, other people and God, and thus confine us to self-involvement. We are people so easily weighed down by self-doubt and truly being open to God’s loving action in our lives, so it isn’t easy to take an honest look at one’s life and to ask, “What is holding me back?”
As a single person who desires to find someone to share life with in an intimate way, I have felt burdened by loneliness and despair. When I find the courage to pray about the things in my life that challenge the hope that God has a plan for me, it is not very flattering to uncover my fears of rejection, the burden past broken relationships, or exposing sinful actions that reflect pride, jealousy and greed.
The Good News is that God’s love changes our lives, if we truly desire to be changed. The first step is to express the desire to be freed from selfishness. Having to take the next step and make changes is a lot riskier because of how God might respond.
Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the tree and honored him by wanting to have dinner at his house. However, the story doesn’t end with a celebratory dinner party with new friends. As a consequence of his enthusiasm to be closer to God, Zacchaeus gives up half of his possessions and makes four-fold reparations to anyone he has wronged.
- So, what limits you from “climbing the tree?”
- How can God help you change?
- Are you ready for what God asks of you in response?
If you are looking for help to start climbing your tree towards more meaningful relationships, consider asking for God’s help through the following prayer (or other words that resonate better with you)
Lord God, my heart is somewhat sleepy
Touch me that I may awake
Make me more conscious of your love and
through that may my life be changed.