RELIGION: Zacchaeus found the way to get his life back

By Canon Gerry Conroy

I think everyone can feel a little lost at times in life. Circumstances can change for us and we feel disorientated, or sometimes life just seems to run away from us we are so busy, and then one day we find we no longer seem to be running our own life, or at least it is not where we want it to be, or how we had expected it to be when we started out with our plans.
Jesus knew that Zacchaeus had been lost, and Zacchaeus, even if he wouldn’t have put it in those words, knew there was something about his life which left him unsatisfied, which was why he was curious about Christ to the extent of climbing a tree to get a look at him.
But that could be true of any of us at times; we can all feel a little disquiet at our life, even if we can’t say exactly what the matter is, even if we wouldn’t say to ourselves that we were lost. Still we sense every now and again that there is something missing, that things are not quite as we would wish.
Would it be too much to say that our modern world doesn’t help, that our consumer society feeds on that, perhaps even tries to nurture it in us so that it can offer us a way to deal with the emptiness? It starts at a very young age, especially at this time of year, so we can get used to the idea of feeling a little bit lost or a little bit empty and we get used to a particular way of thinking of how to deal with it. Perhaps for Zacchaeus it was the lure of money and what it could give him that led him to get lost in life, but his humanity wasn’t satisfied. Yet it is not easy to become un-lost, to find oneself again, so to speak, and it wasn’t until he met
Christ that he found the strength, that he found the way, to get back his life.
I don’t say that it is easier to lose oneself in our modern world, it’s probably just different, but there does seem many more ways to become lost, more opportunities perhaps. Maybe it is life itself, the way that our modern society operates, that can makes us forget who we are. I sometimes wonder if the emphasis on being free that is so prevalent in modern society is really just an expression of a sense we have that we are constrained, restricted, lacking something in our life. The whole consumerist message seems to be centred around what we don’t have and that comes out in a strong desire for freedom. We seem to live in a world without restriction; distance means nothing to us when we can get on a plane or get in a car. Places that were remote to our grandparents are no more than a few hours journey. People who emigrated and were gone for years perhaps for ever, we can speak to, even see anytime. Possessions, once reserved to the rich, we can buy with credit. Our desires, once restricted, to small things now believe anything to be within our grasp. No wonder our desires believe that when they are told whatever they desire can be satisfied;
no wonder we can be caught up in a search for absolute freedom, or for the satisfaction of our every desire; no wonder we become lost in such a vast place. Maybe we only come to realise how lost we are after we have somehow encountered Christ and seen what is possible to us. But we will never encounter him unless we are willing to give some time to go and seek him out. If we show the slightest interest, God will come to meet us; then it’s up to us whether or not we want to take it further and find the real answer to our desires, if we want to know true freedom and find ourselves again.

Canon Conroy is parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton, and St Peter’s, Bellsmyre

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