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This morning, from Fr. James Martin:
"My mind was blown when I stumbled upon this a few weeks ago:
"Here is something that may upend how you see today's Gospel, the beautiful story of Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10). Basically, the translations that most Bibles use are inaccurate, as Joseph Fitzmyer, SJ, points out in The Anchor Bible Series; as does Luke Timothy Johnson in the Sacra Pagina series.
"The usual translation is that upon being welcomed by Jesus, Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of Jericho, undergoes a kind of conversion experience, and promises to give half of his money to the poor and repay anyone he has defrauded four times over--in the future. Here is the NAB, which we read at Mass today:
Look, half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.
"But that's not accurate. As Luke Timothy Johnson writes, "In both sentences Zacchaeus uses the present tense..." i.e., what Jesus is revealing is that this person on the margins, this hated tax collector, is already doing something generous.
"A more accurate translation is this:
"I am giving half of my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated someone I make fourfold restitution."
"The translation is from Johnson. The Greek is δίδωμι (didomi) and ἀποδίδωμι (apodidomi): "I give" and "I restore." Not "I will give" or "I will restore."
"Zacchaeus is not promising something in the future, he is saying he does it already.
I've often used this Gospel story to illustrate Jesus's reaching out to those on the margins and, in the past, I've said that when welcomed, the person undergoes a kind of conversion, thanks to Jesus's welcome. Often I relate it to the welcome that the church is called to give to LGBTQ people, and how, as a result, they will be more able to see themselves in a new light, beloved by God.
"But the story is much more wonderful than that. What Jesus has revealed to the crowd is that this person is already generous.
"When we think of this in terms of marginalized people in our church, like LGBT people, it is a reminder that despite their "image" they are often more loving, more generous and more compassionate than anyone in the "crowd" suspects.
"And so it is not so much Zacchaeus who is called to conversion. It is the crowd."
Here is the Gospel from today, with the translation suggested by Luke Timothy Johnson:
At that time Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.
Now a man there named Zacchaeus,
who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man,
was seeking to see who Jesus was;
but he could not see him because of the crowd,
for he was short in stature.
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus,
who was about to pass that way.
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said,
“Zacchaeus, come down quickly,
for today I must stay at your house.”
And he came down quickly and received him with joy.
When they saw this, they began to grumble, saying,
“He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord,
“Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor,
and if I have extorted anything from anyone
I repay it four times over.”
And Jesus said to him,
“Today salvation has come to this house
because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.
For the Son of Man has come to seek
and to save what was lost.”