Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A college professor randomly and secretly divided his class into two groups. Seeking out each student in the first group before or after class, he said to each, “I just know you’re going to do very well in this course. Thanks for being such a good student.” To each student in the second group he said, “Thank you for taking my class, even though I think it’s going to be a challenge for you and you’ll have a tough time.” It was an experiment by the professor. How do you think each group did at the end of the semester? To a person, the students told they would do well, did well; the students told they would not do well, did not.

Zacchaeus, we’re told, couldn’t see Jesus because of the crowd. We assume this is because he was physically short. Was there perhaps more to it than that? Zacchaeus was small, in large measure because he was told that he was small in the eyes of others: a chief tax collector he was unrespected, assumed to be a thief and a fraud and a collaborator with the Roman occupying force.

We’re told that Zacchaeus “wanted to see who Jesus was.” There are 2 verbs “to see” in New Testament Greek: blepo and oráo. Blepo is to notice, to glance, to observe casually. Oráo is to gaze, to look intently, to want to understand. Which way of looking do you suppose Zacchaeus used when it’s said he “wanted to wee who Jesus was?” When Zacchaeus climbed the tree, he didn’t want to look at Jesus with idle curiosity; he wanted to gaze at Him and look into His eyes.

What did Zacchaeus see when he did that? He saw Jesus looking up to him, when he had perhaps concluded that no one in the world could look up to him. He was small in the eyes of others but large in the eyes of Jesus. As Zacchaeus looked into the eyes of Jesus he saw himself reflected – not the small man the world had caused him to feel, but his true self. He saw his true self reflected in the eyes of Jesus.

It is no different for you or for me. We each have a self-image because of what the world has taught us about ourselves. We each carry bruises and scars, and each bears the taunts of our memories, our self-image made a little smaller by life itself. Yet, we can see our true selves reflected in the eyes of Jesus when we take the opportunity to gaze – to oráo – into His eyes looking back at us.

This is what Zacchaeus was hoping to see. If we’re honest it’s what we’re hoping to see as well: not as the world sees us, but as God sees us, our true selves reflected in the eyes of Jesus.
November 3, 2013
Msgr. William J. King

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