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Ripping Off the Roof

Memorial of Saint Ambrose

First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-10

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
They will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
Say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
With divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
Then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.
Streams will burst forth in the desert,
and rivers in the steppe.
The burning sands will become pools,
and the thirsty ground, springs of water;
The abode where jackals lurk
will be a marsh for the reed and papyrus.
A highway will be there,
called the holy way;
No one unclean may pass over it,
nor fools go astray on it.
No lion will be there,
nor beast of prey go up to be met upon it.
It is for those with a journey to make,
and on it the redeemed will walk.
Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
They will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 85:9Ab AND 10, 11-12, 13-14

R. Our God will come to save us!
I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Our God will come to save us!
Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Our God will come to save us!
The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. Our God will come to save us!

Gospel: Luke 5:17-26

One day as Jesus was teaching,
Pharisees and teachers of the law,
who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem,
were sitting there,
and the power of the Lord was with him for healing.
And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed;
they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence.
But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd,
they went up on the roof
and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles
into the middle in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said,
“As for you, your sins are forgiven.”
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves,
“Who is this who speaks blasphemies?
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply,
“What are you thinking in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know
that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–
he said to the one who was paralyzed,
“I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”

He stood up immediately before them,
picked up what he had been lying on,
and went home, glorifying God.
Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God,
and, struck with awe, they said,
“We have seen incredible things today.”

dec 7

It’s one of those Gospel stories you don’t forget, this narrative of the man who wants to see Jesus so badly that he literally goes through the roof. Nothing—not crowds, not ceiling tiles, not his own paralysis—proves stronger than the desire to be as close to the Messiah as possible.

It’s inspiring to me because, unlike this man and his friends, I don’t always challenge the obstacles in my path. Often, if there is something standing in the way of my plan, I slip into conflict-avoidance mode and simply change my plan. This isn’t always a bad thing; sometimes it’s actually the wiser call not to expend time and energy on something that doesn’t matter much in the long haul.

The trick becomes discerning which things are worth fighting for, and which are not. Which goals are worth the extra time and strenuous effort, the out-of-the-box strategizing, the risk that people will stop and stare? Which goals should I be willing to rip off the roof in order to achieve?

Because some things in life really are worth fighting for. And when we know what those things are, we have a better sense of who we ourselves are.

When I think of this story, I also find myself thinking about my own relationship with Christ. I think of the lengths this paralyzed man and his friends went to, simply in order to be near Jesus. Far from being annoyed at their persistence, Jesus recognizes and rewards their faith. He sees how much they want to be with Him, and it touches Him. I’d like to have the same level of faith, the same desire for communion with Christ. I hope I too would rip off the roof to be able to be with Jesus.

But then I realize that, with the gift of my Catholic faith, I don’t have to. All I have to do is drive a few minutes to Mass, where Jesus comes to me. He does the hard work; my part is as simple as holding out my hand and opening my mouth to commune with Jesus in a way that is both intimate and profound.

May we never let any obstacle keep us from that gift.

What in your life are you willing to rip off the roof to achieve?

photo by Edenn Yorks

Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author of Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood and Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos.  You can find out more about her here

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