Admiration: the Tree of Zacchaeus

Admiration is the tree that God has planted in our souls so that we can contemplate Him. For our part, we can only climb it as Zacchaeus, the tax collector, did.

Newsdesk (30/10/2022 14:38, Gaudium Press)He entered Jericho and was passing through it. A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich. He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature” (Luke 19: 1-3).

So what did Zacchaeus do? He ran ahead and climbed a fig tree. Jesus saw him, called him and said that He would stay at his house that day. At the end of the visit, the Master said: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19: 9-10).

This is today’s Gospel. However, what happened to Zacchaeus repeats itself with us on countless occasions: we do not manage to see the Saviour because of the crowd. But God has planted a tree within our reach which, at such moments, constitutes our true salvation. What tree is that? An impressive event that took place at the end of the 19th century will help us to find out.

A Little Girl who Made History

Blind and deaf at 18 months of age, Helen Adams Keller (1880-1968) was reduced to a sad isolation, without communication with the outside world, except by touch, smell and taste. This North American girl, in fact, would make history not because of the rarity of her illness, but because of the unique way in which she faced it.

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With the help of her teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, Helen was able to learn the language of her hands, the Braille alphabet and finally to speak fluently. And that was not all: after some time, and not without great difficulty, Helen Keller mastered French and German, travelling the world giving lectures and writing books.

It must be admitted that Anne Sullivan’s presence was absolutely indispensable to all this. If Helen had not met her, she might have remained for the rest of her life immersed in the terrible, tragic, silent night of her mind and senses.

But that was not the case. Helen was able to speak and, not infrequently, she peppered  her teacher with questions like these: What makes the sun hot? Where was I before I came to my mother? Birds and chicks come out of the egg: where does the egg come from? Who made God? Where is God? Have you seen God?[1]

These are questions that reveal an admiring soul that seeks God. Who knows if it was this admiration that gave Helen Keller the willpower to become who she was? There is not enough data to confirm such a hypothesis, but not enough to deny it.

But we want to emphasize another aspect: the natural inclination towards God and heavenly things, present in the soul of every human creature. Otherwise, how could a girl who can neither see nor hear formulate such high-level questions? In fact, “just as by heliotropism plants grow in search of light, so souls need to open themselves to the contemplation of creatures in order to rise from them to the Creator.”[2]

More by Gaudium Press  Man was Made for God; God was Not Made for Man

Admiration is the Soul’s Rest

Admiration is the tree that God has planted in our souls so that we can contemplate him. For our part, we can only climb it as Zacchaeus, the tax collector, did.

Often “the mob of this world prevents us from recognizing the Lord; we must trample it underfoot in order to raise ourselves to a higher virtue and to see Christ from on high.”[3] When envy assails us, impelling us to anger, rivalry, etc., let us know how to climb the tree of Zacchaeus.

Quarrels, turning our attention only to material things, only plunge us into agitation, sadness and affliction. Admiration, on the other hand, gives us rest and tranquillity because it makes our heart return to its ultimate goal, God. Let us always keep in mind the words of Saint Augustine: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”[4]

By Lucas Rezende

[1] Cf. KELLER, Helen Adams. A história de minha vida. Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1940, pp.248-249.

[2] CLÁ DIAS, João Scognamiglio. O inédito obre os evangelhos. Città del Vaticano: LEV, 2012, v.6 p.439.

[3] MALDONADO, SJ, Juan de. Comentarios a los Cuatro Evangelios. Evangelios de San Marcos y San Lucas. Madrid: BAC, 1951, v.II, p.752.

[4] SANTO AGOSTINHO. Confessionum. L.I, c.1, n.1. In: Obras. Madrid: BAC, 1955, v.II, p.82.


Compiled by Roberta MacEwan

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