The Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on Divine Revelation addressed the influence of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Scriptures. The document doesn’t go into explanations or theories of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but simply states that God acted in and through human authors in such a way that they made use of their own powers and abilities. So it is that parables can speak God’s word to us, even though our lives today are quite different from the lives of Our Lord’s first disciples. Stories like the one about Zacchaeus convey truth to us as we allow the Holy Spirit to reach us through the story we hear.
Saint Luke describes Zacchaeus as a tax collector: one of the worst jobs a Jew could have during the Roman occupation of Palestine. Even though Zacchaeus was regarded as a public sinner and a traitor because of his collaboration with the Romans, Our Lord not only speaks to him, but even visits his home. At every turn Our Lord breaks the rules and conventions of the times and causes his family and followers much anguish. He is accused of welcoming sinners and eating with them. The message is as powerful now as it was then: no sin can cut us off from God as long as we are willing to turn to him for forgiveness.
As we consider our own lives we believe that our repentance opens the floodgates of God’s love and forgiveness. As Christians, we need to open our hearts to others; sinners just like ourselves and part of our human community. Even though justice must take its course, we must be prepared to forgive people as needed, so that they too may experience God’s love and forgiveness, and find salvation.
And we don’t have far to go to care for others. The people with whom we share our lives each day can sometimes make us feel that we want to climb the walls. We tend to assume ‘they’ are the problem. We can practice charity as we treat everyone with patience, accepting them as friends and family of God. We just need to be confident in God’s care for each person, beginning with ourselves.