The Secret of the Sycamore

From today’s first reading, from the book of Wisdom …

Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent. …

Have you ever stopped to think about how many difficult people you encounter in the span of a single week? The self-righteous, the proud, the self-involved, the unbelievably obtuse?

Have you ever stopped to consider how much of your mental and emotional energy is spent trying to change, exhort, or educate people determined to wallow in their blissful ignorance? Who seem not the least bit grateful … some seem even a bit put out … when you take it upon yourself to point out the error of their ways?

Today’s first reading offers a bit of useful perspective. “You have mercy on all … and overlook people’s sins that they may repent.” God — the most powerful being in the entire universe — does not force people along the path of transformation at gunpoint, or even an irrefutible blast of rhetoric.

No, His methods are infinitely more effective. His are the ways of irresistible love.

Jesus embodied this force of love throughout His earthly ministry. In today’s Gospel, He un-trees the diminuitive Zaccheus with a message of staggering import: “Hey, c’mon down. Guess who’s coming to your house for dinner tonight?”

As a woman, my sympathies are with Mrs. Zaccheus, who must have fainted dead away to find 13 extra guests on her doorstep for dinner that night. If she was anything like my mother, she would have kept her mouth shut and put another pan of biscuits in the oven.

Zaccheus, of course, had his mind on other things. This was a man determined to Make Amends. To his neighbors and less charitable business associates, he was a “sinner,” a “play-a” determined to make his first million — and ingratiate himself to the powers that be — by stealing food out of the mouths of his own people.

But Jesus saw something different. He saw a man determined to make things right. He saw a man who was willing to make himself look ridiculous … so long as he got to see the Nazarene.

It’s a question worth considering: Just what am I willing to do in order to see Jesus truly?

Am I willing to look ridiculous in the eyes of my friends and family?

Am I willing to venture along a path that I never thought I’d go?

Am I willing to release from judgment those who scorn me, simply because I have a different perspective?

Am I willing to relinquish everything I hold most dear, so long as I get to see Jesus?

“Yes, Lord. Won’t you come in and stay at my house today?”

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