When the recent Olympics were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, much was made of the difficulties leading up to and continuing during the games: the Zika virus, crime, lack of funds, etc. In fact, it seemed to many that most of the talk up until the first medals were awarded had nothing to do with the crux of the event to take place: the gathering of the best athletes in the world from over two hundred countries in celebration of sportsmanship and human achievement. Also, the picture presented of Rio was so negative in nature, many wondered why such a city was chosen to host the games. But once the Olympics began, we became mesmerized by the talents of so many. And if you journeyed up the Corcovado mountain to stand with the Christ the Redeemer statue to look out over the city, for a moment many of the issues vaporized in the beauty of the proud city that lay over two thousand feet below.
Life can be messy. It is so easy to get caught up in everything going on in our daily lives. That often times means that we fall into the trap of overly emphasizing the negative struggles that come with living a human existence. But if we can find a way to rise above all we see at eye level, and look down below, we have a chance to see the beauty of life. We see the world as the beautiful mosaic it is as opposed to the irregular and imperfect pieces of the design. In effect, to see the world from this higher vantage point, we are able to see God in the design.
When you travel by air, you can look down and see the beauty of the natural landscape and the wonder in the design of human cities and towns. From this aerial view, the world below is not defined by its shortcomings, but instead by the profoundness of creation. When I am in a plane, I sometimes feel more concretely than ever the presence of God, not because of a notion that heaven rests in the sky above, but because the kingdom of God rests on the ground below. When I take into account the words of Wisdom 11:22, that “before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth,” I almost tremble at his majesty.
Zacchaeus was too short to see Jesus when he came to Jericho, so he had to climb a tree to get a higher vantage point. Only then could he see Jesus. Not only was he able to see Jesus, but also because of his effort, Jesus was eager to personally meet him and come to his home. The encounter would then change the life of Zacchaeus forever.
We have heard several times during this election year the sentiment, “When your opponent goes low, you go high.” Even though we have heard it often, I don’t think we have seen it put into practice much. But whether or not candidates “go high” or not, you and I need to go high. We will find it very hard to see Jesus in the midst of all of this unless we climb that tree with Zacchaeus. We sometimes fool ourselves into thinking Jesus is not there in a given situation. But just as Zacchaeus knew that if he got high enough he would for certain see the face of Jesus, Jesus is surely there.
Finally, whether we are high on a mountain or sitting in a tree, when we look down, we might not at first see Jesus’ face in the crowd or in the midst of the city lights. How will we find him in the rich design in front of us? First, know that his face is in the design. Have you seen those prints that create the face of Jesus by using many small pictures of the faces of others? That is not meant to be just a clever visual trick. The body of Christ is made up of many people, many parts, and many gifts. Look for Jesus in the design. Second, if you want to find the clearest reflection of Jesus within that design, listen to the final line of the Gospel reading for this Sunday: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” He will be in the faces of those who are lost and hurting, those who are hungry and thirsty, and those who are oppressed and forsaken. There you will certainly find him. And if you are up high enough, and if your lens is focused enough, those won’t be places where sadness reigns, but instead they will be the most beautiful parts of the entire landscape.
If you are having trouble seeing Jesus in your life or your world, go high. Jesus is probably much closer than you could have ever realized. He will be looking up, and when you make eye contact, he will offer to come to your home. Be sure to let him in.
Tracy Earl Welliver, MTS
Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
—From the Lorica of St. Patrick