Sermon preached on the Sunday of Zacchaeus
20 January 1991
In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. In these weeks of preparation for Lent, we were faced at first with the story of Barthimaeus to attract our attention to our own blindness; our spiritual blindness of which we are not aware while physical blindness is so clearly perceived; but also to the fact that if we want to recover our sight, our spiritual vision, our understanding of self, of God, of our neighbour, of life, there is only one person to whom we can turn – it is God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Barthimaeus had tried every means to recover his sight, but it was only when he turned to Christ that he did recover it.
Whether we have taken advantage of the past week to reflect deeply on our own blindness and in the darkness to begin to see some light I do not know; each of us will have to answer about his eagerness or his laziness.
But today we are confronted with a new story in the life of Christ: the story of Zacchaeus. This story speaks to us again directly and the question which is being asked is this: What matters to you more – the good opinion of people around you, that they should not jeer at you, laugh at you, call you a fool because you are seeking to see God and to meet Him or the necessity, the inner call to discard everything provided you can see Christ face to face? Is vanity stronger in us or the hunger for God? St. John of the Ladder says clearly that vanity is contempt of God and cowardice before men. What is our attitude – are we prepared to discard everything provided we can meet God – or not? And in our circumstances it is not so much people who will prevent us; people will not jeer at us, they will not laugh at us, they will be totally indifferent; but this does not mean that we, like beggars, will not turn to them, hoping for their approval, and in order to receive this approval turn away from our search, from the only thing that can heal us and give us new life.
We shall also find within ourselves protesting voices saying «Don't! Don't make yourself ridiculous! Don't single yourself out by a search which is not necessary; you have got everything ...» Zacchaeus was rich, Zacchaeus was known as an honourable citizen – so are we! We possess so much, we are respected – are we going to start on a road that will make us into what St. Paul calls ‘the scum of the earth’ that will debase us? This is the question which today's story of Zacchaeus puts to us: is vanity that is the search for things which are vain and empty, and the fear of other people's opinions that will prevail, or the hunger each of us has stifled at times, acute at others, for a meeting with the living God? Amen.