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Justice and the Sycamore Tree

By Judie Brown

Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree to get a good look at Jesus, who upon looking up said, “Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today.”

St. Augustine commented on this biblical account, teaching:

Zacchaeus climbed away from the crowd and saw Jesus without the crowd getting in his way. . . . The crowd laughs at the lowly and says, “You helpless, miserable clod, you cannot even stick up for yourself and get back what is your own.” . . . The wise people of this world laugh at us about the cross of Christ and say, “What sort of minds do you people have, who worship a crucified God?” What sort of minds do we have? They are certainly not your kind of mind. “The wisdom of this world is folly with God.” No, we do not have your kind of mind. You call our minds foolish. Say what you like, but for our part, let us climb the sycamore tree and see Jesus. The reason you cannot see Jesus is that you are ashamed to climb the sycamore tree.

This teaching of St. Augustine reminds us that in our struggle to defend the innocent and in our strive to achieve justice for them, we are the ones at whom the world laughs. The reason for this is clear. The world denies that abortion kills people. And that deceit has led far too many away from truth.

As we push back against the world and its foibles, we know the task is difficult. The quest for justice for those the world despises is never easy, but it is a blessing to do so.

Remember that justice “is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. . . . Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good.”

Like Zacchaeus, we stand firm, ascending the branches of the sycamore tree so that we can see Christ, knowing that He is the antidote who can heal those who deny truth, perpetuate evil, and wish to send us away. He will enfold us with His grace—the armor of God—so that we can stand with Jesus and carry on the struggle for His innocents.

Those who clamor for more abortion decry our work and falsely accuse us of being violent. But the truth is that their embrace of killing little babies has blinded them. They are unbelievers whose minds, as St. Paul tells us, “have been blinded by the god of this world, so that they cannot see shining the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

As we strive to protect and defend the innocent, we pray for our enemies. We know that in working to achieve just treatment for every single innocent person we will walk among those who detest what we do but may, please God, be touched by truth.

The blessing of working in the pro-life vineyard comes in knowing that God’s “imperishable spirit is in all things!” We believe that He will correct the errant as He reminds them “of how they have sinned, so that they may abstain from evil” and come to trust in Him.

For those who persist in advocating injustice against the innocent, there is an eternal price to pay. This is why we do all we can while trusting in the power of God. He has given to each of us a free will, and that means that anyone can choose to do evil. But even then, God does not stop loving us.

And just like Zacchaeus, we are committed to His love. We come to do His will as we pray for those who espouse evil. We ask the Lord to help each of the enemies of life come to recognize, embrace, and strive toward justice for the marginalized. May they climb the sycamore tree and, as St. Augustine said, be able to see Jesus, to know that He is truth!

In the words of Archbishop Samuel Aquila, “Jesus desires us to come to the truth—to come to Him and be free.”