Mark 2:1-12
Kindness of Friends by Rev. Paul Grankauskas
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Mark wrote to explain Christ
to the new Gentile converts.

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.  Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.  They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him.  After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven."  Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, "Why does this man speak that way?  He is blaspheming.  Who but God alone can forgive sins?"  Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, "Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth" - he said to the paralytic, "I say to you , rise, pick up your mat, and go home."  He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone.  They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

This week's Gospel presents us with two startling occurrences.  The obvious one is the healing of the paralytic, a miracle that goes beyond just the physical dimension: "That you may know that the Son of man has authority to forgive sins on earth. . . I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home."

The implications of forgiving the man's sins are readily apparent to observes of this event.  There are two different responses: dismay ("Why does this man speak this way?  He is blaspheming.  Who but God alone can forgive sins?") and amazement ("They were astounded and glorified God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this.'")

In this moment, Our Lord manifests His divine power and authority.  He stands revealed as the Divine Physician, not only of the body but also the soul.  The latter is so much more crucial for us.  No matter what we do, the body wears out, dies and is committed to the earth until the resurrection on the last day.

The soul, on the other hand, stands before God and renders an account to its maker for the good and evil done in the body.  We receive the just rewards of our labors: eternal rest or eternal punishment.  If we had no recourse to the grace and mercy of Christ, we might have great reason to fear that moment of judgment, to dread it horribly.  Since we do have recourse to those precious gifts in the sacramental life of the Church, we have good reason to be people of hope.

This brings us to the second remarkable occurrence in this passage.  Mark's Gospel tells us that the healing took place after Jesus noted the faith of the four men who brought the paralytic to Him.  The sick man could not make it to the feet of Our Lord on his own.  He needed someone to lead the way.  This says something about the important part each of us plays, in his own way, in leading others to Christ.

In a general sense, every one of us needs the Church.  We come to our knowledge of Christ through the teaching mission of the Church.  We encounter the Divine Physician, the healer of body and soul, in the sacramental life of the Church, especially through the Eucharist, Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick.  Christ entrusted these gifts of Word and sacrament to His Church.  We cannot know Him and love Him apart from the Church.

But, when it comes to receiving the sacraments of healing, it still helps to have friends point the way.  A baby being baptized cannot speak for itself.  Parents are asked to profess their faith and give solemn assurances that they will raise their child in that faith.  It is their responsibility to bring the children to Mass and, when they are old enough, to confession.

Even if the children are receiving religious education in CCD or Catholic schools, this is no substitute for the sacraments, which are encounters with the living Christ.  Young children cannot drive themselves to the church for these things.  They need someone to lead the way.  I guess it can be said that the faith of the parents can be extremely important to the salvation of their children's souls.

When someone is in the hospital or homebound, it helps to have friends who can let a priest know so that he can administer the anointing of the sick.  Sometimes people are afraid of being a burden when they ask for such a thing.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  If there is need for the Divine Physician, we should not hesitate to ask for Him.

In putting this together, I could not help but think of Blance Dubois' final words from "A Streetcar Named Desire."  "I've always relied on the kindness of strangers."  In the Church, we do not need to rely on strangers.  We rely on Our Lord for the bodily healing we seek, and hopefully we have the friends we need to show us how to find Him.

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