When I was a young graduate in my first full-time career job, a colleague asked me to join his Catholic community. While I was already serving God in my own little way during those times, I didn’t respond to the invitation. I ignored and made excuses not to attend the community’s orientation meetings. I was uncommitted and chose to stay out of the way. Years passed then I transferred to a new job and got married soon after. And then the call again. My wife and I ignored it for some time, but out of respect for my friend, we attended the Orientation. Then the next meeting, we returned and attended the first talk. Then we came back for the next meeting. And the next meeting. Without realizing it, we were already in the deeper sessions of the Christian Life Program (CLP) when we decided to re-dedicate ourselves to God.
Something much deeper than curiosity drove us to join the CLP, or simply put, seek a deeper relationship with Jesus. It was as if we were drawn into Him, and a strong sense that this opportunity to see Him, just like Zacchaeus, must not be missed. I made the commitment and then the Lord made me listen to His Mother’s voice during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was a totally different experience such that it moved me to tears and life was never the same again. And for good!
At some point in our lives, whether we like it or not, the Spirit will move us to respond to God’s calling. When Zacchaeus got the call, he had to climb the sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, the person from Nazareth that others were talking about. He has to give up all inhibitions, fear, and pride in order to meet his Savior. And this gave him the impetus to translate his conversion into action when he declared, ‘Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.’ (Lk. 19: 8)
All the time, God is calling, inviting us into a deeper relationship with Him. The problem is that like Zacchaeus, there are people who block our view of Jesus, distracting and filling us with noise to drown out the call. These ‘noise’ may be the people close to us, the Internet and social media, television, and many others who compete for our attention. If these aren’t enough, count the crowd who make us feel very small and inadequate to get Jesus’ attention.
Giving time for others is part of service but we have to realize that time for Jesus should be given top priority, as it is the core of our discipleship. We need nourishment and spiritual strength in order to sustain our beings amidst the chaos and challenges that others may bring on us. We need a platform, a ‘Zacchaeus tree’, which enables us to rise and focus on Jesus, so that we can listen to His instructions and will for our lives. Prayer time for the Lord should be a dedicated period each day, just like a daily walk to give the focused attention that our Lord and Master rightfully deserves. We might need to re-visit our priorities, turning off our distractions when immersed in prayer with Him. We must learn to be comfortable in prayerful silence.
Our sycamore tree requires constant effort as by our nature we haven’t overcome sin completely, but the call of Jesus will change our lives completely and radically, as it did for Zacchaeus — and for me.
‘I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.’ (Ps. 145: 1)