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Friday, November 14, 2014

Imagination and Faith

"Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” Lk 19:5
Every time I read the story of Zacchaeus, I smile. Imagining Jesus' rueful look as he spots Zacchaeus in the tree, I wonder whether Jesus might have whispered: "I know you are fascinated by me, Zacchaeus, but you didn't have to climb a tree, especially at your age.  You could have killed yourself. Be at peace, brother.  I know you are a tax collector and have probably overcharged many, but now that you have demonstrated your willingness to seek a different path I will help you."

This kind of imaginative writing would have been called midrash at the time of Jesus.  It was a common practice for the rabbis to "fill in the untold story," in their commentaries on the Torah. Because so much of the scripture was written after the fact, the scribes and evangelists would have had to fill in the details of the stories about history long past and the life of Jesus.

While today I smiled as I imagined a whispered conversation that Jesus might have had with Zacchaeus,  at other times I thought of myself  as a tax collector who, though intrigued by Jesus, didn't have the humility to climb a tree and risk embarrassment to "see" Jesus more clearly.  Imagining the untold stories inside the life of Jesus helps us draw closer to the Lord and enter more deeply into the great mystery of faith. He is the ground beneath our feet, our food along the way and the breath of God's love that keeps us alive.

Today, use your imagination to enter a gospel story more completely.

How has your imagination helped you grow in faith?

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