Last Saturday in Bangkok, more than 200,000 people gathered to sing the royal anthem in tribute and remembrance of the late King. Individually they came, collectively they formed a sea of black clad mourners. These past 2 weeks, witnessing this expression of love has surprised, and at times overwhelmed me, a foreigner living amongst them. Literally, I wish I could climb a tree to see this touching spectacle, this manifestation of emotions, this sea of unifying love.
Love surprises when it brings us far beyond what we thought are our limitations. It overwhelms when it touches us deep inside, perhaps right where our true identity lies, the core of our being, often hidden beneath expectations and desires of our worldly life. Supressed, subdued, awaiting a call to be set free.
Many of us are like Zacchaeus. We deem ourselves somewhat unworthy, disbelieving that we are deserving of God’s grace. Amongst people who know us, it will seem unlikely that we are capable to live a holy life. We are camouflaged by the world, our manifested identities lost in the changing colours of a chameleon. But deep in each of us we all have a desire for good. Embedded in this desire is a constant call to bring this identity to the forefront of our lives; to live it. “For the Son of Man has come to seek out and save what was lost”.
This call is amplified when some things happen to us in life and through these experiences our innermost identity is touched and aroused. It is especially amplified when we experience love over hurt. It moves us when relationships are mended and we reconcile. The joy it brings can overwhelm us to the point of wanting to change our lives; the love experienced, an inspiration to conversion.
We must seek out experiences of love and save what had been lost in our personal life, and it could be our relationship with the Son of Man.
Change is not that difficult. Who we can become is already in all of us. We only need to “climb a tree”, to take a physical step however small that may be to demonstrate that we are a willing party for conversion. That is good enough, and God “will make you worthy of his call, and by his power fulfil all your desires for goodness”. It ask only for a small step and an ounce of faith and he will “complete all that you have been doing through faith”.
We must have heard our fair share of stories of people who have encountered the love of God through reconciliation and how their lives have changed for the better. We have been curious by the transforming effect in people around us but despite it, some of us may still find ourselves stalled in spiritual inertia. It may be due to our perceived unworthiness or lack of belief in ourselves. But sometimes we are simply contented being “ourselves”, unfussed by the tiny ounce of curiosity.
We must then be like Zacchaeus, not suppressing our curiosity but “climb a tree” to address our “anxiety to see what kind of man Jesus is”. His simple action opened the door to his inner self, into his hidden true identity of one who knows love, is loved and can love. It opened the door to ‘change’ and began the process of his conversion. “Hurry, because I must stay in your house today”.
Love as I have witnessed in Thailand is a powerful tool of conversion. Alone, it transform self; together it transform a nation. It brings us beyond personal boundaries and we discover the grace to reconcile. Together it unifies, crossing divides of differences. Love gives hope, and with hope, sadness will become joy.
But it begins with me. I must make that effort to go to the Palace to be part of the 200,000. I must do my small part; I am called to conversion. Individually we change, collectively we become an ocean of good. Change, conversion, is really not that difficult. We only need to tell ourselves, “I must climb the sycamore tree”.
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time