Forgiveness lightens life's burdens



31st Sunday in Ordinary Time-October 31
Wisdom 11.22-12.2 | Psalm 145 | 2 Thessalonians 1.11-2.2 | Luke 19.1-10

Ralph Himsl

October 25, 2010

Big mistake!! Big mistake from the point of view of efficient use of time. As I prepared this text, the name Jericho took me to the Internet and its helpmate, Google Earth.

There I found Jericho - alive and thriving. Northeast of Jerusalem, at the bottom of the earth 258 metres below sea level. An attractive looking place with businesses, markets, churches and mosques to serve its 20,000 people.

Quite aware of its rich history, 9,000 years some authorities claim, Jericho has some Zacchaeus sycamore trees. Somehow, a person hopes that a local entrepreneur might even make the outrageous claim of that tree over there as the very one in which Zacchaeus perched one afternoon 2,000 years ago to watch Jesus as he passed.

"It's in the Bible, you know!" he would say. He might take your photo in front of the tree for a fee.

Thirty minutes later, I returned to my writing.

Even so, that short loss of focus had a lesson. Just as a search of the word "Jericho" proved so profitable, attentive reading of the other words in today's Gospel from Luke yielded rewards.

A quick scan of the text might disarm our critical faculty, because the mind's eye lets us in on what looks at first like a humorous scene: an excited and excitable not very tall man, scurrying about for a vantage point from which to get a good look at the centre of attraction in an approaching crowd.

The picture of the scramble of his dumpy form up the tree trunk distracts us - long hours of sitting at a table recording t That forgiveness part has beauty as Jesus models it before the crowd ax payments have left him less than fit.


The beguiling aspect of this sketch improves because his less than graceful behaviour entertained the people. They knew of his wealth and resented him as chief tax collector, maybe corrupt, maybe pompous. Not civil servants in those days, tax collectors gouged the people, charging what the Romans required and raking off an "administration fee" for themselves.

Luke doesn't mention it, but when Jesus saw Zacchaeus clinging to the tree branch, the picture might have amused him and between his chuckles Jesus called him by name proposing a visit to his house.

We don't use the word much now, but in so doing, Jesus "scandalized" the righteous. They muttered, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner."

Of what passed between Jesus and Zacchaeus during his visit, we know nothing, but we can guess: an expression of remorse and a confession on the part of Zacchaeus, and a complete forgiveness by Jesus.

The result? A publicly repentant man resolving to right himself with the world and his neighbours and Jesus proclaims his salvation. A complete cycle, as the moderns might say.

That forgiveness part has beauty as Jesus models it before the crowd who must have seen it in themselves to imitate him.

I like the quaint thought: if Jericho can thrive today in its unassuming way, so might forgiveness often stir within us when fretted by annoyance or hurt.