Life-Giving Spiritual Friendship

Life-Giving Spiritual Friendship August 21, 2020

Image by Samuele Schirò from Pixabay.

A nun who is a long-time friend of mine wrote me an email the other day with no message except this arresting subject line: “Please continue to pray for my protection, I know I am under attack. Thanks.”

Wow. Forget the details. I don’t know and I don’t care what this is about. Her distress call was all I needed to blast into action. My response: “I’m on it, Sister!”

The scenario reminds me of that magnificent story of the friends who brought the paralytic on a mat to Jesus for healing (Mark 2:1-12). The friends make that same kind of “no holds barred” response, but better. In fact, it is one of the most remarkable stories in scripture when you consider the obstacles those friends had to overcome in order to help their unfortunate buddy.

First obstacle: the impenetrable wall of human bodies that stood between them and the Source of healing.

No problem for these guys. We’re not told how this was done, but I would like to imagine them hiking their friend’s stretcher onto their shoulders and brazenly pushing through the crowd to get to the house. “Excuse us.” Push, shove, push. “Coming through!” Push, elbow, yell: “Make way for the man on the stretcher!” Push, shove, drive, insist. What no one heard from them was an apology.

That level of initiative, and their refusal to let a few grunts and complaints of bystanders deter them, is simply astonishing. Faith is bold like that when the need is great.

Second obstacle: getting through a narrow door into a packed house while carrying a man on a stretcher.

That wasn’t happening, but don’t tell devoted friends they can’t. This is where the friends’ resourcefulness kicked into high gear. “If we can’t find a door or an opening to get him through, we’ll just go up onto the roof and drop him in the rabbi’s lap.” Right.

This wouldn’t have been as easy as it sounds. They needed ropes and a ladder – or two. They found them. And what about that little matter of hauling a hundred-and-fifty pounds of dead weight up to a roof without dropping him on his head and making the problem worse? They got it done.

No one seemed to be concerned about the legality of this stunt or the insurance liability or the possibility of getting sued if someone fell off the roof. Permission from the owner? I’m sure these questions never entered their minds. They cast all these cares to the wind for the singular purpose of getting their friend to Jesus.

Faith is resourceful like that – and a bit risky.

Third obstacle: roof.

This was probably the least of the obstacles for a group of persistent young men who wanted their friend back in good health. “Just take the roof off.” That’s all.

If they were worried what anyone else would think or about the damage they would cause, that didn’t hold them back from actually destroying a perfectly good roof. They could offer apologies to the owner and pay for new tiles later.

After all, the itinerant rabbi wouldn’t be around long. They had to get their friend to Him – now. The only thing between them and Him was a roof. In their estimation, a few boards and terra cotta shingles: take them off.

The Jews call that chutzpah. These guys had it in spades. And the Lord rewarded it in spades. Imagine the smile that lit up His face when He looked up and witnessed this brazen act.

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven’” (v. 5). It was not the paralytic’s faith that drew the cure. He cured the man – in body and soul – because of the friends’ faith.

Let’s just say this outright: these guys were awesome friends, the kind everyone in the world would like to have. They wouldn’t take no for an answer. Not even from God!

Friends get their spiritually handicapped friends to Jesus at all costs. If obstacles, internal or external, prevent you from bringing your loved ones to Jesus, then your spiritual friendship lacks…chutzpah.

It’s hard enough to be a good friend in a human sense, but it’s even harder to be a spiritual friend. It demands more of us: initiative, creativity, persistence, ingenuity, boldness and lack of concern for temporalities when something as important as a soul is at stake.

And in most cases we will see faith’s reward only after a long time of persistent intercession. There are no shortcuts to spiritual rewards.

Yet, it is faith’s belief that someday, in His time, the Lord will look up to us as He did the men who dropped pieces of tile and a paralyzed friend on Him, and, seeing our faith, will turn to our spiritually paralyzed friend and say, “Your sins are forgiven.” That will be reward enough. What a joy that day will be!

So, now you’re wondering: What, specifically, am I doing to help my nun friend?

Rosaries, Divine Mercy chaplets, Eucharistic visits, sacrifices, constant petitions. Furthermore, I’m calling on all the Seraphim and Cherubim of heaven to descend with swords and fire to obliterate her wicked, heathen, terrible persecutors!

Well, that last part may be a bit dramatic, but hey, a friend uses everything he’s got to help a friend, right?

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