Trick or Treat! Thursday was Halloween. One day every year people wear masks and others have to guess who they are. Lots of people wear masks all year long.
By this I mean, when other people have to deal with us, what do they see? Do they see who I really am or a mask that I am wearing? I often wear a mask. I wear my “I’m So Busy Mask”. “There are so many things I have to do. I don’t have time for you. I am so busy, I hope you don’t start telling me about your problems. I have so many of my own.”
Then there’s my “John Wayne Mask” that I wear. “Hey, everything’s just fine with me. I’m a tough guy. I’m resilient. I can take what comes my way. I’m not worried one bit. I’m cool.”
Another mask I wear is my “Complaining Mask”. I wind up complaining about everything. I mean just about everything! “Aren’t you ever on time for anything? Boy, it’s hot in here! That team is so bad, I don’t think I’m going to watch them anymore.” And of course there’s always the politicians and the people in Washington to complain about.
Another mask I try to not wear is my “Teasing Mask”. My dad wore it all the time to tease my mother and I hated how he teased her. But I still wear it and do it. “You eat all of that and you’ll have to get new clothes. That’s what happens when you don’t listen to me. Was your mother as messy as you are?”
I hope you get the point. On Halloween, we wear masks one day a year. But I and a lot of people wear masks 365 days a year. WHY? To keep people at a distance. I don’t want to be real or honest with you. I don’t want you to know the real me.
WHY? Because inside I’m afraid. Inside I’m weak. Down deep I’m lost. Down deep I don’t have all the answers I pretend to have. If you knew who I really am, I’m afraid you wouldn’t like me. You’d laugh at me. That would kill me!
In a spelling bee in Third Grade I thought I spelled a word correctly. But all the kids laughed at me. For the next 16 years I never raised my hand in class again. I don’t like to be laughed at. None of us do.
So what does this have to do with today’s Gospel? (Luke 19:1-19). Jesus is going along doing his thing of preaching and working his miracles. This little guy named Zacchaeus heard about him and he wanted to meet Jesus.
But Zacchaeus had two big problems: 1. He was short and 2. He was the chief tax collector. People hated him. They wanted to get their hands on him and beat him up.
Zacchaeus seizes the moment: “I want to meet this Jesus. I want to be like Jesus, not a bad guy or a jerk. I want to take off my mask and be real.” So Zacchaeus climbs a tree and literally goes out on a limb. The Result: Jesus says, “I want to eat with you today.” There is a dramatic change in Zacchaeus’ life. He gives half of his money to the poor. He repays many times over those he had defrauded. A God Alert
We have here a Zacchaeus moment, where he seizes the moment. He throws caution to the wind. He tears off his masks. He gets to meet Jesus and to know him as a friend so he could be like Jesus.
When I was first ordained, my dad was always wearing his “Complaining Mask”. My mom had died and he was all alone. So he felt sorry for himself and he let you know it. So if I called him, he said I was bothering him. If I didn’t call him, he said I didn’t care about him. I was in a “no-win” situation.
I had a Zacchaeus moment. I wrote my dad a letter and included my feelings. I took off my masks. I told my dad that I loved him. I told him I was sorry for the ways I had hurt him. I asked him why he wouldn’t let me into his life? When I finished the letter I slipped it under the door of the apartment where he was living.
From the day he received and read my letter, many things got to be so much better between us for the next 25 years. He often removed his “Complaining Mask” so I could deal with the real man. We had a much better relationship for the rest of his life.
What masks do you wear?
Every day is not Halloween. So why do you and I keep wearing our masks? Take off your mask and seize the moment like Zacchaeus did. It may never come again. Trick OR Treat?