Open the Roof
A spacious and undefended heart finds room for
everything you are and carves space for every-
body else. But sometimes you have to rip the
roof off to let people in.
In this week’s celebration we look at the imagina-
tive way ways to open our hearts to welcome
others. In our first story told by Father Greg Boyle
of Homeboy Industries we hear how one gang
member invited several others to share Thanks-
giving with him in his tiny apartment. According
to Father Boyle “It was the entire law and the
prophets, all in one moment, right there in that
humble, holy kitchen.”
In the second reading we hear how Jesus was
living in Capernaum and teaching the people
there. He was an itinerant preacher and would
accept invitations to speak in people’s homes.
On one occasion the people gathered in a home
in such large numbers that there was no room - not even outside the door. Everyone wanted to hear his words and get a glimpse of this teacher.
A group of family members and friends were desperate to cure their young kinsman of palsy. They thought if only they could get close to the teacher maybe there was a chance of a cure. Their desperation made them courageous and a little crazy.... So, they all went onto the roof and made a hole. Then they gently lowered their friend into the arms of Jesus.
Jesus touched his forehead and looked into his eyes. He whispered a blessing and, understanding the man’s faith said to him so everyone could hear: " Your life is precious and now you are cured by love. Rise and walk.”
The focus of the story is understandably, the healing of the paralyzed man but there is also something significant that Jesus and the people around him are doing here -- They’re ripping the roof off the place; those outside are being let in. Jesus sees clearly that everyone is inside the circle – there is no one left out. No one.
And what happens? Hope fills them. Acceptance thrills them. Delight fills them. They realize that in the presence of unconditional love they are all OK – and better than OK – they are the beloved.
Here is a teacher who welcome people in and embraces them in all their brokenness – even if they drop through the ceiling. What a wonder! Hope and wonder combine into a powerful mixture, that dissolves fear, and shame and guilt.
Although they’re packed in like sardines, they find a new spaciousness in their hearts. And, once loved, they feel empowered to carve space for everyone else – to grow the circle.
As we look back at Thanksgiving and enter the time of Advent, we need to be able to open our own roofs and let people in – to create kinship where we live and where we eat. Right here, right now.
As we think of entering this time of Advent, I’d like us to close our eyes and think of creating a spacious heart. Begin by thinking of your worries and concerns. Our children – are they alright, the bills, the worries about your health, the worries about your mind... as in ... when I forget words and search for... oh my god is it early onset...? When I think about the sadness of so much smallness in our world. So many fires, so many victims... so many shoeless migrants walking toward us. The images flash and crowd my mind. More dark than light.
“But in this place of darkness there will be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness... the voices of those who sing”
Please take a breath in and then let it out slowly...It’s time to put away all the images of scary and hear...
The rustling of that thatched roof overhead as the friends break through. Then comes an opening in your heart where light comes in. The light is the divine presence of you – which has been here all along.
The light is the divine presence of the others here too. The light is ever expanding in our hearts and glowing there and ever-expanding pool of light bathing everyone so that no one is left out. The migrants. The fire victims, the ones we demonize, our families and friends. All are in the circle. Please hold that thought for a moment. Each one of us recognizing in each other the divine. Namaste. The divine in me sees the divine in you.
The First reading: A Reading from Father Greg Boyle
Father Greg: Poet Galway Kinnell writes, sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness. “And when we learn our own loveliness and our frailty, we begin to foster tenderness for our own human predicament
Father Greg: I had a 23-year-old home named Miguel working for me on our graffiti crew. As with a great many of our workers. I had met him years earlier when he was detained. He was an extremely nice kid, whose pleasantness was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he had been completely abandoned by his family. Prior to their rejection of him, they had mistreated, abused and scarred him plenty. He calls me on New Year’s Day.
Miguel: “Happy New Year, G.”
Father Greg: I say “That‘s very thoughtful of you, Miguel. You know, Miguel, I was thinking of you at Christmas. So, what did you do for Christmas?” I asked, knowing he had no family to welcome him in.
Miguel: “Oh you know I was just right here,” meaning his tiny little apartment, where he lives alone.
Father Greg: “All by yourself?” I ask.
Miguel: “Oh no” he quickly says, “I invited the homies from the crew – you know, gang members like me who didn’t have any place to go on Christmas.”
Fr. Greg: He names the five homies who came over – all former enemies from rival gangs.
Fr. Greg: “Really”, I tell him. “That was sure nice of you.” But he’s got me curious now... “So” I ask him, “what did you do?”
Miguel: “Well,” he says, “You’re not going to believe this ... but I cooked a turkey.”
Fr. Greg: I could feel the pride right through the phone.
Fr. Greg: “Wow you did? Well how did you prepare it?” Miguel: “You know” he says... “Ghetto style.”
Fr. Greg: I tell him “I’m really not familiar with that recipe.”
Miguel “I’m more than happy to give up my secret. Yeah, well, you just rub it with lots of butter, throw a bunch of salt and pepper on it, squeeze a couple of limes over it and put it in the oven. It tasted proper.”
Fr. Greg: I said “Wow that’s impressive. What else did you have besides the turkey?”
Miguel: “Just that. Just turkey.” He says. His voice tapers to a hush. “Yeah. The six of us, we just sat there, staring at the oven, waiting for the turkey to be done.”
Fr. Greg: One would be hard pressed to imagine something more sacred and ordinary than these six orphans staring at an oven together. It is the entire law and the prophets, all in one moment, right there in this humble, holy kitchen.
Our Second Reading is from Mark:
When he returned to the fishing village of Capernaum word went out that the teacher was in one of the houses and talking to everyone. So many people went to hear his words that the place filled up. There was no more room, even in front of the door.
Then four young people showed up carrying a young boy afflicted by palsy. They were hoping against hope that Jess could cure their kinsman but no matter how hard they tried they couldn’t push their way through the people standing around Jesus. Finally, out of desperation they climbed onto the roof of the house and peeled away a section which was made of mud and thatch. Jesus was right underneath their work and the dust came down on him and the people listening to him. They all looked up but shielded their eyes from the dust.
Once the roof was open, the boy’s body nestled in a sheet and held by a fishing net slowly descended into the waiting arms of Jesus. He wondered at the lightness of the boy - all skin and bones.
He looked up to see the youngsters peering down into the room anxiously waiting. Would the teacher reject them, or would he answer their prayer and heal their friend? Jesus, a bit dusty, and bemused, smiled up at them. Seeing their faith, Jesus whispered to the boy, 'My child, your sins are forgiven.' And at that a murmur went up from the crowd. Because some scribes were sitting there, and they thought to themselves, .'How can this man talk like that? He is being blasphemous. Who but God can forgive sins?'
And at once, Jesus, inwardly aware that this is what they were thinking, said to them, 'Why do you have these thoughts in your hearts? Who are we not to forgive.? Which of these is easier: to say to this boy, "Your sins are forgiven" or to say, "Get up and walk you are free of your affliction"?
And then Jesus, still holding the child in his arms said Now son it is time for you to rejoin your friends. 'I order you to get up, and stand, and go off home.' When Jesus released him from his grasp the net and the sheet fell away and there stood the boy, the first time in his life he could stand without help. His friends cheered from the roof and everyone laughed and sang. They were all astonished and praised God saying, 'We have never seen anything like this.'
And they were caught up in a new reality of love that toppled the old order, and they felt something wildly subversive and new.