Our encounter with Jericho earlier this year was decidedly Christ-like, I realized as I reflected on Sunday’s gospel.
Like Jesus, our bus-full of pilgrims pretty much “intended to pass through the town” back in early March. Move along. Nothing much to see here.
We did pause, briefly, at what’s purported to be the sycamore tree of Zacchaeus in Jericho – and who knows? It’s big, venerable…perhaps even climbable by a man who is “short in stature.” But could this sycamore specimen actually be more than 2,000 years old?
Still, it didn’t strike me as “holy ground” in that moment, when I sized up the stubby-yet-stately tree – perhaps because of the trinket-hawkers who descended upon us pilgrims with a vengeance during our fleeting photo-op. All the commotion made it hard to imagine that a life-changing moment had occurred there.
But Zacchaeus begs to differ, I suspect.
In fact, Luke tells us that the tax collector was in fact caught up in quite a hub-bub on that fateful day. He had to run ahead, just to stay ahead of the crowd…just to grab a glimpse of Jesus. And then, more commotion as the little guy clambers down to greet the Holy One face-to-face:
“When they all saw this, they began to grumble…”
Sitting with this story today, I notice that I am particularly intrigued by what happens next:
Zacchaeus stood there…
Slip your feet into the tax-collector’s sandals, and you can almost feel the strange sensation coursing through the sinful man’s veins in that instant.
Zacchaeus, pausing. Doing his level-best to block out the commotion. Making room for grace. Taking a moment…to just be.
Zacchaeus stood there…and noticed that, somehow, his stone-cold icy heart had begun to melt.
Jesus, can you…would you…will you…slow me down today – and bestow this same precious grace on me?
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.