Getting out of your box

‘Oh, I’ll get back in my box then’ is often a response to being challenged or corrected. It sounds humble, but it carries a note of complaint about having been put in a box in the first place. If we overhear people talking about us, we can be offended by the limited view they have of us: we know that we are much more than the box they have put us into.

If we try to break out of the box and refuse to be contained by the expectations other people have of us, they have only two choices: they can admit they were wrong about us and accept the new and larger picture of who we are, or they can reject us and nail down the lid of the box more firmly.

When Jesus turned up in his home town, preaching in the synagogue and healing people, this didn’t fit with what they knew about him: the quiet carpenter they’d grown up with, who was related to many of them, had turned into a preacher and healer. This was too much for most of them. If they accepted this new view of him, they would have to take his teaching seriously and change their comfortable habits. It was easier to dismiss him, put the lid back on the box and carry on as if nothing had happened.

Reflecting on this story should make us wary of putting other people in boxes, assuming we know who they are, how they will react and what they are capable of. But it could also make us think about the boxes we put ourselves into, the assumptions we make about our own limitations.

Pope Francis and our bishops are asking all of us to think about how we can give a clearer witness to the good news of God’s love and mercy for all people, by our words if necessary, but more importantly by the way we behave. We may think that sounds like a task for someone else, not the sort of thing we could manage, but perhaps God is calling us to climb out of our box, surprise ourselves and challenge those who think they know us to think again.

Fr Chris


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