Sycamore and Savior

I loved my house in Jericho. I loved it but I did not love my life. I would creep home from my daily work, wash, and walk alone into the shade of my garden. I had no family to welcome me. My table was spread with the best food and fine cups, but I rarely had visitors. As I ate and drank, I imagined what it would be like to invite guests to supper, to fill up their cups and see them settle into the comfort of my room.

No one knew that I wanted to be different. They assumed I still took more than I should and furnished my home with their wages, but I remembered what the Baptizer said, and when I sat in the shade in my garden I prayed and asked the Lord God to help me. I had other tax collectors under my authority, I had an important role, and I was good at my work but in my own eyes I was poor. A little man with few friends and no wife or children to benefit from my wealth.

Passing Through

I heard the news from the people who came to pay taxes. The Teacher was planning to pass through town and many of the people hoped to gather to hear him teaching, even to receive healing. I sighed when I heard that; they would have healing for their poor, sick bodies. The lame would leap for joy, the dumb would sing and the blind see, but I would still sigh and go home and eat alone.

Even so, I decided that I would go and hear him when he arrived. I would go early and find a suitable nook to view him as he taught. It was not so simple, however. As the crowd built up, they began to press in on me, shoving me out of my place and completely blocking my view before Jesus had even arrived. It was not surprising; they were desperate and if they noticed the little man in the crowd, they had no concern to help me. I realized, though, that I must see him. I spoke to myself and prayed. ‘I must see Jesus, I long to see Jesus, I will see Jesus today!’

In the Tree

‘Oh God you are my God for you I long!’ Step away, press on, out of this crowd, ‘For you my soul is thirsting …,’ the tree, the great sycamore, not only a place to shelter … ‘My body pines for you …,’ take the branch, climb, grasp haul myself up … ‘like a dry weary land without water,’ what a climb for a tired man. But I reach a place in the tree where it will be possible to see him. A cry goes up and the crowd presses in, but I am ready, in the tree. And then I see him, he moves closer and, oh, he stops right beneath me and looks straight up into the sycamore. And then he is looking at me and I see him. I see him and I know who he is, ‘so I gaze on You in the sanctuary to see Your Strength and Your glory!’ My Lord and my God!

“Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.”

There is only one possible response. Disregarding the murmurs and complaints, disregarding the indignity of rapid descent from the branches, I do what the Lord asks. I lead him back, I open my home to him and lead him to my table. I offer him everything, and that everything spills over into an offering to the poor people I had harmed, because he has found me and brought me home to his home too. He is my Lord.

[Readings: 2 Mc 6:18-31; Lk 19:1-10]

Deborah van Kroonenburg

I am a Secular Carmelite, mother and grandmother, worked in the NHS for many years as a midwife and health visitor, and now work for my UK Diocese, in Marriage and Family Life and Catechesis, as well as helping my husband who is a Deacon in our parish.

1 Comment

  1. Radhika Sharda on November 21, 2023 at 8:59 am

    Beautiful. Thank you for taking us into Zaccheus’ story. I agree, I see him as having lived alone. I love how you draw us into his curiosity and desire to see Jesus. The way you wove in the psalms was perfect, reminding us of how our thirst leads us to seek Jesus. A joy to read–it was like watching the film unfold. God bless.

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