It is a great joy to join the team of the English edition of Aleteia! I am also honored to be working once again with Pierre-Marie Dumont, the President of Aleteia, with whom I collaborated for 20 years as editor-in-chief of Magnificat.
These days we live in a world that seems to conspire against our happiness. It is so difficult not to get discouraged when faced with a sea change to culture, both confusing and contradictory. How can we navigate this world without ending up even more anxious? Aleteia is here to help.
The happiness we seek is not an illusion. Any doubt along those lines dissolves when we remember this: Our desire for happiness is a gift we have been given. Amidst life’s chaos, the most reasonable thing we can do is look to the Giver of that gift. For “that which produces happiness is something outside of the soul” (St. Thomas Aquinas).
Our trouble is we stay stuck inside. We get stymied by our “structural disproportion”—that is, we know that we are made for happiness and holiness, but at the same time we realize how incapable we are of bringing it about on our own.
That is why God has given us the Church, and that is why Catholicism is an adventure. Someone who models this for us is the Gospel figure of Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10).
Luke tells us three key things about Zacchaeus: he was wealthy, which means he tried to find meaning in worldly possessions; he was a tax-collector, which means that he had caved in to the corruption of the secular world; and he was short in stature, which means that he felt that he didn’t measure up and doubted his own self-worth. Yet, no matter how hopeless the circumstances of his life, Zacchaeus sought to see who Jesus was. He didn’t want to waste his life. He decided to take a risk.
As Zacchaeus perches in a sycamore tree, Jesus does not leave him alone in his isolation. Rather, Jesus looked up at Zacchaeus. And in accepting that gaze, everything changed. St. Augustine says that “Zacchaeus was looked at, and he saw.” You remember how much you loved it as a child when an adult paid attention to you. That is what happened to Zacchaeus. And as he scurries down from his tree, he sees a whole new way of looking upon the challenges of his life.
He decides, going forward, to regard the struggles of his life with the same attention that Jesus gives him. He looks beyond what he knows to how he is known. No longer will his starting point be his own preconceptions and understanding. Rather, he will watch whatever is in front of his eyes, and depend on the gaze of Jesus Christ to give him the insight to understand and then act.
That’s what Aleteia will do for you. Aleteia accompanies you with a Catholic viewpoint that imparts real courage and conviction. Even when reality itself seems to betray us, we opt to exchange the tension of life with attention to the One who always gazes upon us, inviting us away from our own misery. Jesus promises Zacchaeus: I must stay at your house. For how long? The tense of the verb is indefinite. Jesus promises to stay with us indefinitely.