There is this great dramatic story of a man in Capernaum who had been paralyzed, and it seems that he might have persuaded his friends or they might have thought of the idea themselves, to carry the paralyzed man on a stretcher toward the house where Jesus was teaching. (Now keep in mind this home where Jesus was, was filled with a large crowed that filled the space available inside and spilled out the open door into the streets.) Their hope was that Jesus would heal the paralyzed man. Once they arrive they couldn’t penetrate thought the crowds and there was no way inside the home. What then were they left to do? Well, one of them came up with the crazy idea to climb up on the roof, whether it was thatched or tile, and somehow open up a hole through the roof that would allow them to lower the man on his stretcher so that he would bypass the crowd and land right in front of Jesus. There is no doubt this was a crazy scheme, but bold, and it might just work. At this point there are no other options, so they go ahead with the plan.
So, they follow through with the plan, and Mark says that Jesus was impressed by their faith, not just the faith of the paralyzed man, but of his friends as well. Therefore, Jesus pronounced forgiveness and healing on the man, and because of their faith, which lead to them making a hole on the roof, also opened new possibilities for the man. Mark says, that he walked out carrying his stretcher in which he had been carried. I can imagine the awestruck crowd making space for him to exit in a matter that they didn’t when he first arrived at the house.
While others see this story as another great miracle Jesus did. I like to focus on the four friends that carried their friend. How they let the weight of his condition become their burden to bear, and allowed his problems become a problem for them. One way of looking at it is his paralysis became their paralysis, and their ability to move became his ability to move. Also, what is not important is whether or not the man had faith, but most important is his friends did have faith. Which resulted in a miracle. This happens when we practice compassion in the world, and we become the stretcher-bearers for people of this world whether or not they have faith and hope. We need to put our faith and hope to work on their behalf.
Imagine the world we would live in if we all became like the four friends of the paralyzed man and practiced compassion for others and ourselves. Hungry stomachs will be filled. War zones bill be overtaken by peacemaker. Tears will be tried. And God’s compassion will be behind these wonders. If we allowed God’s compassion to be alive in our hands, eyes, and voices, we would bear stretchers, defy crowds, open holes in roofs, and become more part of the solution and less part of the problems in the world.
The struggle always is remembering that we don’t stop and open our hearts, and realize that just outside the front door of our consciousness there are people who are in need. A relative or co-worker. A neighbor or friend. Someone we might have heard about on the radio. Even non-human ones, as endangered species, threatened ecosystems, and plundered landscapes.
It is always our chance to enter into the pains of this world. There is always the chance to bear the stretcher by feeling its weight and carrying it to God, sharing it with God, joining God in the vital connection of compassion, generosity, and kindness.