by Jean Denton
The young man was rough and poorly educated, but he did a nice job of retiling my shower stall. As he finished his work and walked into the hall, he noticed a small crucifix hanging on the wall.
“Are you Catholic?” he asked. I said yes.
“I have some questions for the pope,” he said. “How can I speak to the pope?”
I suggested he might write a letter to the Vatican.
“I’d really rather talk to him face to face. Where’s his office?”
“If I went to Rome, could I go to his office and ask some questions?”
I explained that people can’t just walk in and talk to the pope.
“Why not?” he asked, genuinely curious.
“He’s a busy man. He’s the leader of the church for the whole world,” I said, but I could see the answer wasn’t satisfactory.
“It still seems like I should be able to talk to him.”
Seeing the conversation could go no further, I shook my head, thinking this guy doesn’t have a clue.
But this weekend’s Gospel points out that Jesus came with the express hope of saving every one of his people. That would include sinners like Zacchaeus and me and uneducated, “unchurched,” tile layers.
I couldn’t guess what questions the tile layer had for the pope, but clearly he believed this man had answers he needed. I imagined such a meeting and had to believe he’d come away changed.
Luke’s story illustrates that, unlike the pope, bound by space and time and therefore inaccessible to the throngs who may wish to see him, Jesus is infi- nitely available.
No matter how small or insignificant we may seem in the sea of humanity, he wants to be in the presence of each one of us. He looks through the crowd, picks us out and focuses intimately on our unique faces and inadequacies, and he calls us to himself.