When Jesus sees Zacchaeus, up the tree, he does not say “Come on down! for I must be the featured after dinner speaker at this week’s meeting of ‘Tax Collectors R’ Us’”, no he says, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." In the Church we are baptized, as an individual, receive the Eucharist, as an individual and confess our own sins and receive absolution, as an individual.
If we are seen as only a member of some group our individuality is dissolved, and we become just a faceless symbol of the group’s unsavoury characteristics. We become susceptible to ‘scapegoating’. In ancient times, the sins of the tribe were written on cloth strips and laid on a goat. The goat then ‘bore’ the sins of the people. It was chased into the wilderness to suffer and die and with its death its cargo of sins was deemed to have died. The value of the goat lay in its passivity by meekly allowing itself to be loaded up with offences and sent off to its death.
This ‘old time religion’ is having a bit of a modern revival in the ‘Woke Awakening’. Willingly bearing the perceived past and present sins of your ‘group’ and meekly allowing yourself to suffer and/or die economically, culturally, or literally is being marketed as the ideologically fashionable thing to do.
One side effect of our individual sins is to awaken, in us, our individual desire for absolution and this desire can live in us in a place that is too deep for words. It is our spiritual Achilles Heel. The woke shepherds can capitalize on this vulnerability and use it to lead us not into the promised land but to some substitutionary slaughter, in the valley of death.
We need to heed Jesus’ advice, in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”