While pondering the gospel for today, I cannot help but hear and sing in my head, a Beatles tune. I get by with a little help from my friends, I get high with a little help from my friends, Going to try with a little help from my friends. When we are going through some emotional or physical trial of life, friends can help to reassure us that God is there with us, and we do not have to face any obstacle life throws on our path alone. The reading from the Gospel of Mark tells us about a friend in need. Here we have friends helping someone find healing in both body and spirit in the presence of their God. St. Mark gives many details when describing the miracles of Jesus, and every detail is significant. The first thing we notice with the healing of the paralytic is that Jesus appeared to be inaccessible. Jesus was boxed in by a crowd. Some of the people in the crowd were there because they were curious about the gifts of Jesus’ healings. Others were there just to criticize and find something wrong, such as the scribes who denounced him for claiming to forgive sins. But none of these obstacles stopped the four men from bringing their paralyzed friend to Jesus. They had to go around the back way, lift him up over the wall, get him onto the roof, to be near the teacher. I am also moved by the urgency with which the friends sought out Jesus. Why not wait until the crowds had dispersed? There was always tomorrow. But these men knew their friend needed companionship, so they did not let the crowd stop them. There were many places they could have become frustrated and given up, deciding it was impossible, but the stakes were too high.
The first step in this man‘s healing was his friends placing him in presence of God. When the man came in the vicinity of Jesus, Mark tells us the teacher — saw their faith. It was the faith of the man‘s friends as well as his own faith that impressed Jesus. The man who was paralyzed was blessed by his own faith, but he was also blessed by the faith of his friends. The faith of friends, who were determined to bring him into Jesus‘ presence. The faith of friends who would not be deterred by the crowds and obstacles. Mark tells us Jesus saw their faith, not just his faith, but their faith and it was their combined faith that opened the door to Jesus blessing. We all are like that paralyzed man with needs we need to place in the presence of God.
Five years ago, the Ministry of Prayer was created at Old St. Pat’s. The members of this faithful ministry were amazed at the response of members of this community asking for prayers of all manners of companionship: physical, emotional, and spiritual. I believe this group was so well received because the prayers were held by a circle of faith-filled folks who joined together seeking wholeness, and drawing confidence through their shared connection. The faithfulness of this ministry has helped me experience a reality I suspect the paralyzed man discovered as well. Even without being free of physical disease, we are offered God’s transformative gift of love that can mean more than healthy bodies. As Paul insists in his letter to the Corinthian church, every one of God’s promises is a yes. Sometimes, the no we hear from elsewhere opens the door to hear a Divine yes with fresh clarity and profound gratitude.
Jesus’ words of forgiveness to the paralyzed man turn out to be God’s most transforming yes, thanks to his friends. And we are invited to be friends who join together and carry others so they, too, can be reminded of the compassion and presence of God.
Bernadette Gibson is the Director of Pastoral Care at Old St. Patrick’s. If you know someone who is in need of prayers, a home communion delivery or spiritual companionship please contact Bernadette Moore Gibson @ 312.298.2389.