“Sin needs a solution other than concealment.” There was a moment in grade school when concealment seemed my only chance. I had not done a LOT of my cursive homework book. It was due. So I told the teacher I had left my book at home, but I had done all the pages. Saved! I thought as she seemed to buy it. She asked me to get my brother from down the hall to testify to that truth. So I lied to him and he repeated that lie to the teacher. She bought it. Saved again! “Bring your book in on Saturday, with your mom when she drops off her things for the clothing drive.” Reprieve! I can do it before then.
Mom gives me the nth degree to get it done. I do. THEN she drops the bombshell – “You have to tell Sr. Stephanie when you hand it in that you lied to her.” GULP. Saturday comes, mom drives me up to the school, hands me the bag of clothes and my cursive notebook, and says: “Drop this off and make sure you tell her you lied.” Saved again – she is staying in the car! I drop off the clothes, drop off the book and high tail it out of there without saying a thing about my lies. FREE at last! I round the corner and start up the steps and nearly run into mom coming down the steps. “Did you tell her?” “Yes,” I lied again to cover the lie that covered the lie that covered the lie. “What did she say? BUSTED! Wasn’t ready for that question! So she marched me back down there, because she knew what was at stake was more than just a failed handwriting assignment. My mom knew that sin needed a solution other than concealment.
“Sin needs a solution other than concealment.” Sin flourishes when it is concealed. I learned this truth in a different way when my former associate came back from treatment for alcoholism. A representative from Guest House held a meeting with the parish staff about how to help in the healing process.
“One of the issues around the disease of alcoholism is this difficult truth: The disease wants to hide itself. It will do all it can within its power to make sure that it is not uncovered. Hidden, the disease can thrive. Exposed to the light, it will wither and die. That is why part of the healing process for the recovering alcoholic always involves a sponsor to whom one holds him/herself accountable. And why Guest House always involves the housemates and staff of a recovering priest in the healing process. We need you to know the preferred ways Fr. Vic’s alcoholism will try to hide itself, so you can help him keep his recovery in the light. Hidden, alcoholism will kill its host. Brought to light, the recovery will win.”
Isn’t that true about all sinfulness? When we allow it to remain ‘hidden’ – tucked into a back corner of our lives – it thrives and grows. But when you have the courage to share your struggle with someone, to bring the sin into the light, something new emerges, doesn’t it? Our truest and best self has the ability to be loved into life.
That seems to be the truth that prompted Zacchaeus to leave behind all shreds of dignity and decorum and climb that tree, still dressed in all his finery. Like a fresh breeze after stifling summer heat, the arrival of Jesus in the town was enough to help Zacchaeus see how trapped he had become in his sinfulness. Too long he had let sin keep its hiding place. Too long he concealed his dark secret, and lived up to the reputation of being a cheat and a fraud that the people accused him of being. Jesus’ desire to spend time with him, his invitation to ‘come down’ for I MUST spend time with you – does not shame him into more concealment. Rather, it offers him the chance to bring his sinfulness into the light.
Defrauding people out of hard earned money has to go. Living a lavish lifestyle while so many living on the outskirts of that oasis town struggle to make a go of it – that too, was blazingly brought into the light. And once he confronted his sin, once he allows Jesus to be invited into his house, he is able to ‘stand his ground’ – to let something new emerge. “Half my belongings will go to the poor. Anyone defrauded will get 4 times restitution.” Salvation had indeed come to his house that day.
I’ll never forget the words that came out of Sr. Stephanie’s lips when I stammered my apology for lying so repeatedly about the handwriting book. “I forgive you! Thank you for telling the truth.” I remember hiding my tears of relief in mom’s skirt. I had spent so much time and energy in the cover up and the cover up of the cover up that it was a relief to have my sin brought to the light. You see, there is a better solution to sin than concealment. It is called the truth of a Savior’s love. As we bring our gifts to the altar, I invite you to bring your sins as well – bring them to the one who says to you, as he said to Zacchaeus, Hurry down, for I MUST stay in your house this day!