I think I might be forgiven…for resenting this latest attempt at extortion.
In the past day or two, our local daily – which once upon a time existed primarily as a “newspaper” – has implemented a paywall, limiting access to most stories on its server.
Fair enough. Journalists, editors and sportswriters deserve to get paid for their work.
But it would be nice if the brainiacs running the operation could perhaps recognize their loyal (if disgruntled) customers, of which I already am one. Instead, the paywall prompt provides an option only for purchasing a new subscription. There’s no link offered for logging in to an existing account – only a “dimmed” taunt, placed just above the “order” bar.
Tap it at your peril: It’ll cost you $25 bucks a month to learn what drivel is behind the paywall on your smartphone screen. And all this comes just about a month after those same brainiacs at the PD gutted their feature pages and eviscerated their “online reader” app. What a bargain: I can now pay twice…in order to receive half the daily content – all in a clunky, impossible-to-use format!
This is certainly not the user experience I expect from a media outlet whose publisher’s platform proclaims that it will “never tolerate injustice or corruption”…and will always oppose “public plunderers”. But if there’s a blessing behind all my frustration, perhaps it comes by way of helping me appreciate what the people of Jericho must have been feeling back in Jesus’ day.
You might say Zacchaeus – the dude Jesus encounters in the story we hear at Mass this week – was the contemporary personification of an infuriating paywall. He’s the chief tax collector. You’re not getting around him, not if you expect to live a hassle-free life. And he has no compunction about ruthlessly wielding his power.
Don’t feel like paying twice? Tough beans. Zacchaeus runs the only tax scheme in town.
So what does it say about the nature of God’s mercy…when even a guy like Zacchaeus gets to immerse himself in it?
Perhaps it means I have to consider the possibility that God’s mercy runs deeper and wider than I might consider prudent. Indeed, this is the God we meet in the first reading from the book of Wisdom:
But You have mercy on all, because You can do all things…
This God is enormously patient, too:
Therefore You rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in You, O LORD!
Imagine that: This God might even have the capacity to soften the hearts of those who are inclined to spew and sputter about infuriating paywalls.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.