Today’s Gospel Reading depicts one of my favorite scenes from the Bible. In it, Jesus is “at home” in Capernaum, and the townspeople discover he’s there. Knowing that he has the power to cure, they converge on his resting place, clamoring for healing.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them. (Mk 2:2)
Jesus has just returned from preaching throughout Galilee, and I can’t imagine he’s pretty tuckered out at this point. I’ve seen Galilee for myself, while beautiful, it’s also a substantial trek to make! Still, Jesus’ compassion for his flock touches his heart and moves him to preach the word to them in spite of his fatigue.
But while Jesus is preaching to the crowds, four men arrive carrying a paralytic on a mat. Since the people are pressed in around Jesus, blocking the doorway and none too eager to give up their spot so that the men can make their way through with their paralytic friend, the four men get creative. Determined to help their friend, they climb up on the roof, bust a hole in it, and lower the paralytic down to our Lord so that he can be cured.
I can just imagine the astonishment of the crowd at the audacity of the four friends of the paralytic man! Maybe they even were a little bit miffed at the interruption. I’m also compassionate toward the homeowner, since he’s just had his precious roof destroyed by handful of do-gooders.
More than any of that, however, I’m touched by the loyalty and selflessness of the paralytic’s four friends. They are not about to accept defeat by the crowd impinging upon Jesus, they want a cure for their friend, and they’re not about to let anything stop them.
The end result? The paralytic becomes cured.
Whenever I hear this passage, I have to give thanks for the “four friends” in my life who have caught me up when I was paralyzed by my own fears, feelings of defeat, uncertainty, and mental, physical, and spiritual affliction. Indeed, I have many more than just four friends! I have a long list of them who, throughout my life have scooped me up on my mat, climbed to the roof, and lowered me through it so that I could be cured by our Lord.
I’m reminded of my grade school friends who kept in touch and kept up my spirits when our family moved to a town 50 miles away. I was 13, socially awkward, and turned completely inside out and upside down by the move.
I’m reminded of my friends from high school who supported me through the anguish and confusion of my dad’s death and the years after trying to regain my balance.
I’m reminded of the friends who prayed me through every pregnancy – all of them difficult, and three of them resulting in premature babies who we nearly lost.
I’m reminded of the friends who have listened to me gripe over the years, lamenting the hardships of parenting and the struggle to raise my children up right. They allowed me to lay there on my mat, whining away, and paralyzed by my feelings of inadequacy. When I finally quieted, they’d take me to the roof, lower me down, and placed me before our Lord.
I’m reminded of the friends who, year after year, remain faithful to me even when I’m a rotten friend myself. They patiently have waited in the wings for me to become un-paralyzed by an overburdened schedule and ridiculously heavy workload so that I can give them a call or set up a time to get together
We all have “four friends” in our lives – people who have scooped us up in our helplessness and taken us to Jesus. Most likely, we’ve only recognized a small number of them. But if we look back over the years, will see that there are many, many of them and be able to give thanks for them. We’ll also be able to see times when we found ourselves on our mats before the Lord without even knowing how we got there. Even at those times, there were “four friends” who got us there even though we weren’t aware of their presence in our lives.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” (Mk 2:5)
Who are your “four friends?”