The Faith Of Friends
Reflection based on Mark 2:1-12
“I don’t think we can get through,” one man says, over his shoulder.
Meanwhile the man beside him is busy yelling, “Move over, let us through! We have an invalid here!”
“Wait, stop!” says a third. “I have an idea.”
So they, with the fourth stretcher-bearer and the fifth friend—the one paralyzed and lying on the makeshift litter—halt for a few minutes. One runs home to get some rope. When he returns, they spring into action. First, they climb up to the roof (accessed by a narrow stair) carefully, so as not to tip their companion off of his mat. Then they get to work, tearing a hole big enough to fit the stretcher, to which they tie pieces of rope.
Now, voilà! They are able to place their friend at the feet of Jesus.
Imagine what it is like inside the house. The packed crowd is listening to Jesus speak when, suddenly, there is a commotion above them. Bits of debris begin to fall, and those below push their way to the edge of the room, shielding their eyes while peering upward to discover the source of this sudden distraction. Amid clamor and many exclamations, the owner (maybe Peter himself?) can be heard shouting, “Stop! You’re ruining my roof!”
Jesus remains seated, watching the growing hole with interest and the paralytic with compassion. He gazes at the four friends whose faces now appear above. In all of this, Jesus sees more than an interruption or a future roof repair. He sees faith and need: faith which has moved the hearts of these men to make a way to Him when all other paths were blocked and the need of healing for this child of God lying before Him. So, Jesus responds. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Child, your sins are forgiven.’” He heals the paralytic from the inside out.
The Pharisees question Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. “Who but God alone can forgive sins?” they object, clearly showing their own lack of faith. They are partly right. Only God can forgive our sins. But they do not believe in Jesus’ divinity, and so the Lord, to give them a sign, works a further healing. He says to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”
The man obeys immediately. He stands up, his limbs suddenly strong and mobile, picks up his mat and goes home. Perhaps the first thing he does is look at Jesus, tears of gratitude welling in his eyes. And then, what a reunion he must have had with his friends outside! They probably clambered down from the roof to meet and embrace him, rejoicing at his restoration of body and soul. I hope he then walked with strength—of faith—for the rest of his years, until he finally reached his heavenly home.
One of the remarkable things about this passage in the Gospel is Jesus’ response to the friends. It seems that they were the ones with faith, that they initiated this visit to Jesus. They very well may have talked their friend into letting them do this for him. In any case, this is an example of intercession. And Jesus responds with a miracle.
Do you ever wonder if God hears our prayers for others, especially for those who are far from him, those who do not pray, those who do not know Him? I am heartened by this Gospel passage; it reminds me that I can carry to Jesus my loved ones who, for whatever reason, cannot make their way to Him on their own. And it reminds me that Jesus heals, and He heals from the inside out. Many times we must patiently persevere in our intercession, but we can be sure that Jesus looks upon our faith and is moved by our prayers. So let us tirelessly bring others to Him, confident that He will answer our prayers according to His will, bringing healing, forgiveness, and a compassionate response to our needs.
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR