Since i was young, leafing through colorful pages in my children’s Bible, I’ve loved the Gospel story where the friends lower the paralyzed man through the roof of the home where Jesus was staying.
It’s a story to seize the imagination: the crowd pressing close, the creativity of determined friends and the drama of a man being lowered on a stretcher to Jesus’ feet.
But the part that catches me now — as a homeowner — is the roof. They ripped it off the house.
Whether they removed tiles (Lk 5:19) or opened a hole in straw and clay (Mk 2:4), they decided no barrier could keep their suffering friend from the hope of healing. Whether the roof could be repaired was no concern. They needed to get their friend closer to Jesus now.
This Gospel story teaches an important truth about dismantling barriers that keep others from God. The friends open up the roof, making a way where there was no way. What roof might need to be ripped off the structures we have built, to help people get closer to Jesus?
Many of us spend heaps of time, energy and money on the maintenance of our homes. But do we stop and ask what in our lives might be keeping people from closer communion with Christ?
If this story feels uncomfortable like a pebble in the shoe or unsettling like the shaking of a firm foundation, this is a good sign. The Gospel truth is tearing down our own defenses.
Jesus sees and affirms the faith of the roof-wrecking friends. He doesn’t yell at them for making a hole or shame them for not using the door like everyone else. He heals their friend’s paralysis and forgives their sins — even more than they had hoped for.
Who in our life might be longing to get closer to God — and might need us to rip off the roof of the way we’ve always done things? How could our homes become more welcoming to friend and stranger alike, with all their messy humanity?
Our first reaction might not always be the most compassionate or Christ-like. If my kids tore a hole in the roof of our house (literally or metaphorically) I’d likely yell or scold first. But Jesus sees what matters most: the need of the suffering man and the faith of his friends. He does not worry about the externals.
He reminds us there is always room, beyond what we think possible.
Christians are called not to close ourselves off to the world but to let others inside our homes and holy places and help them come closer to God.
Servant of God Dorothy Day urged people to keep a “Christ room”: a place where strangers would always be welcomed. Every time I read her words, I’m challenged to consider whether this is true for my own home or heart:
“Every house should have a Christ’s room. The coat which hangs in your closet belongs to the poor. If your brother comes to you hungry and you say, Go be thou filled, what kind of hospitality is that? …
“Of course husbands must be considered, and wives must be considered, and children. One must look after one’s own family, it is true. But Fr. Coady said once, ‘We can all do 10 times as much as we think we can do’” (The Catholic Worker, 1947).
How can we be unafraid to rip off the roof and help others (and ourselves) to get closer to God, whatever it takes? How could the walls of our hearts become more porous, letting in all whom God asks us to love?
Fanucci is a writer, speaker, and author of several books including “Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting.” Her work can be found at laurakellyfanucci.com.