By Sanchez, Patricia Datchuck
National Catholic Reporter , Vol. 46, No. 26
OCTOBER 31,2010, THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Patricia Datchuck Sanchez
Wis 11:22-12:2; Ps 145; 2 Thes 1:11-2:2; Lk 19:1-10
In the 1991 movie "Regarding Henry," Mike Nichols directed Harrison Ford and Annette Bening in a conversion story that compares to that of Zacchaeus in today's Gospel. Ford starred as Henry Turner, a lawyer with a well-earned reputation for arrogance and ruthlessness. He was married to Sarah (Bening), with whom he had a daughter, Rachel (Miki Allen). But Turner's workaholic lifestyle left little time for his family, and he further jeopardized his home life by conducting an ongoing affair.
One evening, Turner walked into a store where a robbery was in progress. He was shot twice and critically wounded. When he regained consciousness, he had amnesia and was paralyzed. Slowly and with great effort, Turner was rehabilitated--not only physically and emotionally, but spiritually. As he gained a sense of himself, he became aware of the damage he had caused to his family, his clients and himself. When he could, he began to make amends to people he had wronged. He admitted wrongdoing in a court case and tried to procure a just reward for a man he had cheated. He broke off the affair he had and forgave his wife for her infidelity. In learning to read again, to tie his shoes and to take care of and be cared for by his daughter, Turner learned to love again, and his family life became more important than his career for the first time. Something of his near-death experience made him more profoundly aware of others, and in his newly discovered empathy, Henry Turner became a better person, a more honest lawyer, a loving husband, father and friend.
As Peter Malone and Rose Pacatte have suggested, a similar change took place in Zacchaeus' life (Lights, Camera ... Faith! Pauline Books and Media, 2003). His story suggests that he had heard something about Jesus that stirred a desire to meet him. In that encounter, Zacchaeus went out on a limb (pun intended) to find Jesus, and then he found himself embraced by forgiveness and the promise of salvation.
The author of Wisdom anticipated the attitude with which Jesus welcomed sinners. This beautifully crafted description of the tender compassion of a loving God offers powerful testimony against those negative portrayals that unfortunately continue to distort the true face of God for many. …