“Anablepo:” Lessons from a Short Fat Man

 A couple Sunday’s ago we read the story of Zacchaeus in the Gospel.  I’ve come to realize just how much this story sums up the whole Christian experience.  I mean here’s a guy who’s spent the majority of his life screwing over regular old Joe’s like us. To add insult to injury, that nice tunic that you couldn’t afford, is hugging his overfed belly just a bit too tightly.  Yes, I imagine Zacchaeus looking something like Danny DeVito.

So how are we similar?

 

First, the Gospel tells us that this man was  the chief tax collector, in other words; he was rich (hence the fancy tunic and expanding waist detail, which I added for dramatic effect ;p).  Then it tells us that he just wanted to see Jesus.  Bored from his extravagant lifestyle, Zacchaeus gives us the same reminder that St. Augustine knew all too well:  “You created us for yourself Oh God and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  All the fancy tunics and food in the world were not satisfying this short man! Sound familiar yet??

 

The Gospel goes on to explain that he climbs a tree because he couldn’t see. The crowd was too thick and he was too short. Let’s put on our spiritual glasses for a moment and talk about what it means to be spiritually above the crowd and spiritually short.  First, as Christians we are called to “be above the crowd.” Indeed we are all sinners, but still I am called to something greater. When “the crowd” gets so thick and I can no longer see good from evil I am called to “climb”.  I am called to do whatever is necessary to see Jesus.  Secondly, we should all desire to be spiritually “short” in stature.  After all, Jesus said of the little ones, “the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mat 19:14).

 

Next we are told Jesus looked and saw Zacchaeus in the tree. Behold my dear friends the power of a word study.  This word looked in the Greek is anablepo.  Ana meaning, ‘gazing into the midst,’ and blepo meaning, ‘perceiving, understanding.’ When put together the word takes on an even deeper meaning, ‘to receive sight!’ So let’s be clear:  Christ gazes into Zacchaeus and gives him understanding!  Where do we first see this in scripture?  Genesis 2:22, God gives Adam the command to call and name the creatures and takes a step back and says, “let us see (a form of looking) what he will call them.”  Okay, so lets put it all together from the beginning.  First God creates everything.  Then God gives everything to humanity. Specifically he gives Adam the gift to call and to name.  However, before one can call and name one must first SEE (Anablepo).   So Christ, being the new Adam, SEES the short chubby man in the tree. Then what does he do?  Lk 19:5 “Zacchaeus, come down from that tree.”  CHRIST CALLS HIM BY NAME!!! The word call in the Hebrew is qara it means ‘to give purpose to or to commission’ in Latin its Vocatio!!  VOCATION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Friends, in one gesture, described by one word (looked/anablepo), Zacchaeus is a changed man.   He is a man with purpose, a man with a calling, a man commissioned with a duty to fulfill.  Something miraculous has happened here!  We know this because we are told that Zacchaeus returns what he has taken.

 

What does this mean for us?  We too are sinners.  Yet, we are called to be above the crowd so that we can see Jesus.  Jesus will come and call us! He did this with Samuel, with David, with Joseph, etc.  He will give us sight.  This sight (a deep knowledge a perception) leads to our commission.  Lk 19:5 “make haste and come down, for I must dwell with you.”  The ultimate Vocation is to be who we were created to be, that is, holy dwelling places of the Lord!!

 

This parallel goes even deeper. Christ too will climb a tree in scripture, the tree of the cross.  On that tree He will gain for us the ability to have the Spirit come and dwell inside us.   On that cross He takes away original sin which leaves a gaping hole in our hearts; a hole that can only be filled by God alone, forever making us tabernacles:  Holy dwelling places of the Lord!  When Christ tells Zacchaeus that He needs to dwell with him, it’s a prefigurement for the ultimate dwelling that is to come.  That did come on Pentecost!

 

Why the sinner?  Why Zacchaeus? Why us?  Because what victory is there for God to come and dwell with those already Holy? It is precisely because Zacchaeus is little with sin and brokenness that the Lord chooses to manifest himself in him.  We too are called to climb the tree of the Cross – to die with Christ.  And remember, when we die with him we will rise with him (Tim 2:11).

 

Are you ready to climb?

 

 

My Scarlet Letter “S”: Why Women Race to the Altar

I’ve often heard young Catholic men complain, “every time I ask a girl out she thinks we are going to get married.”  Okay men fair enough, we do this…I’m not denying it.  Now you have it in writing! But there’s more going on than what meets the eye.  We’re not all that crazy ;p  Allow me to explain:

Unfortunately women, especially in the Catholic/Christian world, have placed their identity in being loved by a man.  We live in a world that tells women to be independent but those of us that are single are looked at like we have a disease.  Women will say, “she can’t even get a man.” As if we were shopping for you at the local supermarket.

You would not believe how often women ask me about my marital status.  It comes out in “playful” jabs that go something like, “WOW, you look really good holding that other person’s baby (wink).”  To which I’ve responded, “yea, turns out I have all the right parts (wink).” And then there’s “Gee, your awfully cute. I wonder why someone just hasn’t snatched you up yet.”  And there are the not so subtle Church ladies who approach in haste as if they are actually watching the ticking of your biological clock. They say blunt things like, “I see you here at Church all alone you must not be dating someone…well I know a man for you….” Its at this point that the music from The Shining begins to play in my head and I have to begin repeating Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing and acceptable to you oh Lord my God…May the words of my mouth….” You get the picture.  Singleness has become a mark of shame; my scarlet letter.  Now I am not one of those people that would say, “yea, I’m single and I’m proud, who needs a man??” But where is the balance??

Just a few weeks ago I was with a friend and business partner giving a talk at a local school on masculinity and femininity.  One of the teachers approached us and introduced herself first to Nick and then to me.  Without skipping a beat the first question she asks me after shaking my hand is, “so are you married or single?” Keep in mind this question was not directed at Nick. It was directed at me even though we are the same age.  I politely responded, “I’m single.”  To which she said, “oh well you can do a lot in your singleness.” (Again the music from the shining, cue Psalm 19:14…).

Fulton Sheen says, “A woman’s heart that isn’t loving is like the Titanic in a pond.” This is how we bear the image of God!  DESIRE! Our capacity to love is enormous. Unfortunately we don’t always know how to appropriately share it :/  Or worse, we’re afraid to even admit it.  At the end of the day gentlemen we were made for you.  The one’s that object are usually the quickest to ask where my boyfriend is!   We were made to be your helper.  There is dignity in our desire for you, although admittedly it is not always lived out in a dignified manner.

I am by no means giving women the right to act the way they do.  However, I do expect that men recognize how delicate the heart of woman is…the heart of God can be.  My mother says, “to a man love is a thing apart; ‘tis a woman’s existence.” We are like Christ hanging on the cross crying, “I Thirst.”  We thirst for you!!

I hope this has been a bit eye opening.  Gentlemen I ask two things of you: First for your patience.  Imagine if weekly someone was coming up to you saying, “hey, you know that one thing you want more than anything in the world, I just don’t understand why you don’t have it yet.” As a woman all I hear is, “Gee, what’s wrong with you.  Nobody wants you.” Sure, maybe some of you are thinking, just toughen up deal with it!  But you don’t want that either! The result is a closed off woman incapable of love.  We aren’t like you in this way.  Tough, and able to take insults! We are like the heart of GOD! His heart is never closed and never ceases longing for you.  We are sensitive and need to be given permission to stay that way!

Second, I ask for your courage.  If woman bears the image of God by how she loves then the most frightening thing you will ever encounter is a woman in love.  But we need you to be willing.  Please do not allow this perverted tendency of racing to an altar scare you away from being the man you were created to be. You were made for more!

Ladies, seek ye first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness and the rest will be given to you.  Be women of prayer, women of faith, women willing to wait. If a guy asks you out on a date don’t start inserting his last name in for yours when you get home just to see how it looks. He proposed that you go on a date with him, not meet him at the end of the aisle.  “I adjure you O Daughters of Jerusalem…to stir not up nor awaken love ‘til it please.” (Song of Songs 3:5).