A God who doesn’t need you to be polite
A Reflection for Friday of the First Week in Ordinary Time
Find today’s readings here.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him. (Mt 2:4)
Some of my favorite sections of the Gospels are the moments when people do things that seem bold or even kind of crazy. Zacchaeus climbs a tree to see Jesus. Peter begs to go walk on the water. The bleeding woman, who because of her condition was not supposed to touch anyone, reaches out to touch Jesus’ cloak.
Helping a friend or crying out for help yourself is more important than doing things in exactly the right way.
In some ways, today’s Gospel takes the cake. Seeing that they can’t get their paralyzed friend in to see Jesus, a group of people literally climb up onto the roof of the home that he is staying in and put a hole in that roof so that they can lower their friend to him. Imagine being the owner of that house! (In Jesus’ time, was there homeowner’s insurance for “people trashing your roof”?)
I think what these stories have in common is a belief that there are times when you just have to forgo the rules or social conventions, that helping a friend or crying out for help yourself is more important than doing things in exactly the right way.
Even the stories of Zacchaeus and Peter seem like they come from a deep personal need. Peter wants to be the kind of person of faith that Jesus keeps talking about, or maybe wants to be just like Jesus. Zacchaeus wants to catch a look at the man who says there is a place in Jewish society and at God’s table even for tax collectors.
Part of growing up is learning not just what is right but what is the generally right way of proceeding. And that knowledge can be really important; if you want to be taken seriously in most meetings you’re probably better off wearing something nicer than an “I’m with Stupid” T-shirt.
But in the Gospels again and again we get these moments when people don’t do things in the normal or proper way—again, those four guys cut a hole in someone’s roof. Seriously, how crowded could this house have been?But rather than being punished they are rewarded by Jesus.
It’s a useful reminder that when it comes to people in need God does not stand on ceremony. And if that’s the case, maybe we don’t need to, either.