The evangelist Mark depicts today’s gospel story in such vivid and dramatic detail that we feel as if we are right there in Capernaum. This must have been what Jesus’ life was like once he began his public ministry—swarms of people beseeching him for help, exhausting him with endless pleas and petitions. One of those seeking Jesus on this day is a paralyzed man whose friends have brought him on a stretcher. With people spilling out of the house, they are desperate. If they cannot bring their friend through the door, what can they do? They know their friend will be devastated if he cannot get to Jesus, so they carry him up to the roof, pull away part of it, and slowly lower him down until he is at the feet of Jesus.
This riveting story carries an important reminder: All of us are called to Jesus, but none of us reaches Jesus on our own. We come to Jesus through the help, encouragement, support and guidance of others. Today’s gospel offers a breathtaking picture of true friendship at work because the friends who bring the paralyzed man to Jesus do whatever is necessary—even if it means going to extremes—so that he can reach Jesus.
The Christian life is a journey to God, but we cannot manage that journey on our own. Like the man in today’s gospel, we need companions on our journey to help us stay close to Jesus and to draw us nearer to God. That’s the inescapable truth in this gospel story. If any of us are going to find Christ in our lives, we need others to help us. After all, if it is true that the paralyzed man could never have gotten so close to Jesus without the help of his friends, it is equally true that the paralyzed man, in his undisguised need, brought them to Jesus as well. When it comes to the Christian life, if we don’t do it together, we don’t do it at all.
Paul J. Wadell is Professor Emeritus of Theology & Religious Studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin, and a member of the extended Passionist family.