Today marks the second Sunday of Great Lent, the Gospel story is of the paralytic who is lowered through the roof of a building.
The image the Church puts before us today is one of love and hope, a sign that even midst the fasting of this period and the concerns of the world all is not grim.
In this tale we hear of a man who is paralyzed, the story doesn’t tell us if he was so from birth or if this is the result of an accident or illness, just that he was unable to walk for himself. To go anywhere he would have been dependent on others, possibly even to feed himself (again, no information as to whether he was a paraplegic or a quadriplegic, the ancient world didn’t differentiate as we do). Regardless of his condition it was dire. He would not have been able to work to earn a living, so all of his needs had to be provided for by others, either family or friends.
Here is our tale of love and hope. Sure, the man himself had to have hope to convince his friends that Jesus might be able/willing to heal him, that he might be able to get through the crowds to get close enough. But the friends, now there is love and hope.
Typical Jewish building of the period had either a straw or mud roof (mud if you were wealth, or the building was important). So, cutting through to lower a person on a stretcher wouldn’t have been a massive task, but getting there, that would have been something else. Now we are told the crowd was so large that they couldn’t get into the building, so they lowered him through the roof. Sounds simple enough, right? Picture it:
They carried him to the building, then saw the size of the crowd. Now, they’d have to work their way through the crowd with the stretcher, trying not to tip him off of it, somehow climb to the top, then get their friend up there as as well. Next, open a hole through what was probably a dried mud roof, large enough to lower the cot down without tipping him off of it. Then, either get down themselves, or shout down to Jesus. All in the hopes that the friend they loved so dearly might be healed, though something like this has never happened in the past.
That, my dear readers, is unconditional love, and unbelievable hope. This is what the Church is trying to get through to us this week. That because of what will happen in just a few weeks we will all receive that unconditional love, the fulfillment of something that, up until then, mankind had never even hoped for – the promise of the forgiveness of our sins, and eternal life with the “man” willing to give up life itself for billions of people he would never meet on this earth.
Jesus tells us that the greatest sign of love is to give you life for a friend. An even greater gift is to be willing to give your life for people you don’t know. Next time you meet a soldier, police officer, or firefighter, thank them for being willing to give their lives for people they won’t meet until the very moment their lives may be forfeit.