This coming Sunday offers the first notes of preparation for Great Lent. Because the Gospel reading recounts Zachaeus’ encounter with Christ, this Sunday is commonly known as “Zachaeus Sunday”. (Luke 19:1–10) The Gospel recounts how a short man, the tax collector Zachaeus, wished to see Jesus but was unable because of the crowd surrounding the Lord. His solution was to run ahead down the path Jesus was on, and then to climb up in a tree so that when Jesus came that way, even with all the crowd, he would still be able to see the Lord for himself – and this is exactly what happened.
One of the best ways for us to have a profitable and good Lent is simply to copy Zachaeus: When the days of Lent actually arrive, they quickly combine with our own personal circumstances and we find ourselves quite at sea in a crowd of competing needs, commitments, and demands – with hardly so much as a momentary glimpse of Christ himself. Like Zachaeus, we who know the path of the season before us have the opportunity to run ahead and get in a good position to do the one thing that matters most: to locate and look upon Christ (with the daring hope that he might even look up at us).
After a very long and trying year this is the one thing that we most need. But in order to do this we must run ahead, we must prepare. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, Scripture reading, going to church will not immediately become our strong allies because the Church calendar says it is Lent. If we have atrophied in any of these things we will have a much better chance of their use if we begin to lay our plans now. Lent is not always the time for heroic feats, but it is the time for focused attention and consistency, always. As we weigh the prospect of approaching Christ this Lent we will be best prepared if we have planned in advance and made ourselves ready for prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and the rest.
The path lies before us, and it is still quiet. Let us run a little ahead and take our position now, so that when the time arrives we will be as close as we possibly can to the coming Lord.