Reflections on the Readings
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - February 19, 2012 - Year B
By Dennis S. Hankins
The Work of Faith
And when they could not get near [Jesus] because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.
Now that is what I call 'bearing one another's burdens!' (Galatians 6:2) No one really knows how long this paralytic and his four friends had been buddies. But their example of friendship is what we should emulate. Their bond of friendship united them in their work of faith and that faith meant bringing their sick friend to Jesus. This act is intercessory in its care and concern for another. And Jesus saw the care and concern of this man's friends; he saw their faith. It wasn't just the faith of the paralytic, but it was 'their' faith.
Their faith left a whole in the roof.
Imagine what they thought when there was no way to Jesus through the front door. Gently laying their friend down to the ground they stood back and assessed the situation. The paralytic props himself up with his elbows and eyes the crowd before him. And just before despair clouds their minds and hearts someone has an idea. No one disputes the idea. After carrying a man across town on a pallet, what's one more challenge of roof climbing.
You have to love the tenacity these men showed. Faith works by love and such faith is invincible. Nothing in their way kept them from their mission. Maybe they had heard Jesus say, "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'be removed into the sea,' and it shall be done unto you." A little muscle and a little faith and before you know it they're breaking through to Jesus.
In Jerusalem there was a pool named Bethzatha by the Sheep Gate thought to have healing properties. The area was divided up by five porticoes. In this area lay a number of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. In fact, one man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.
At certain times the pool water was troubled signaling the sick to come into the stirring waters to be healed. When Jesus walked through this area he took notice of the paralyzed man who had lain there for thirty-eight long years. Knowing that he had been there a long time, Jesus said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" And the sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going down another steps down before me." For thirty-eight years no one befriended this man. No one help carry him into the healing waters. Others got in front of him and before he could enter the waters, the waters became calm. This went on for almost four decades. No one assisted this poor fellow and no one picked up the work of faith in his behalf.
But Jesus ended this man's dilemma that day. He healed the man and said to him, "Rise, take up your pallet, and walk."
Friendship is a precious gift.
I remember when our family was going through a very difficult time. Betrayed by misinformation, we almost moved to a situation that looked good on paper. But that's the only place it looked good. Debbie had already moved her piano students to another teacher and we had our house on the market. Once it became clear that we had been had, we quickly took our house off the market and tried to get our feet back on the ground. One late summer day, a childhood friend of mine drove down our street. We were tearing out some very old carpet and carrying it out to the gutter for pick up. My friend stopped briefly and we talked a bit. Then out of nowhere he tucked $200 into my sweaty front pocket shirt.
Just when you need that special lift a friend comes along. He doesn't ask you a lot of questions. Somehow he just knows he is supposed to come by. Maybe its just to let you know he's still around. Or maybe it's to let you know you can lean on him for as long as you need. Perhaps it's writing a note to say, "Hey, I prayed for you today. It's going to be better." A friend does the work of faith every time he helps carry you through.
The friends of the paralytic brought their friend to the best friend anyone can have. With their faith they pressed through the difficulties for their friend. While the hole in the roof got bigger, the hope of healing became bigger too. Once it was large enough, they let their friend down through the hole and laid him right in front of Jesus. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."
Someone didn't get it. "Blasphemy," someone was thinking. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why do you question like this in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'rise and take up your pallet and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" –– he said to the paralytic –– "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." And just as his friends' faith had expected, he rose, and picked up his pallet and walked out the front door.
Jesus was everything the paralytic and his friends had imagined. By faith they had overcome every obstacle. Challenges only made their faith stronger. Faith seeks for him who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Nothing has changed in two thousand years. And as long as time endures, mothers will do the work of faith and pray over their babies burning up with fever. Faithful husbands and fathers will keep lifting up their families in prayer. The faith of a child will never go unnoticed. And until Jesus comes again, the work of faith will still seek out Jesus, the Son of God, who heals those paralyzed in body and soul.