“WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR?” (Mk 2:1-12): 18 January 2008 (Friday)
Perhaps one of the best known portrayals of friendship in recent times is the friendship between Frodo and Samwise, the hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Ring” trilogy. As they went through their great and dangerous adventures together, Sam proved himself to be an extraordinary friend. In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” when Frodo was going to leave the rest of the Fellowship, Sam insisted on following his friend and continuing to serve as companion and protector to him.
In “The Two Towers,” when Frodo was bitten by a giant spider, Sam thought his friend had died and took the Ring with the intention of finishing the mission himself.Perhaps because of his pure heart and dedication to his friend, Sam was the only Ring-bearer who resisted the temptation of its power.
Finally, in “The Return of the King,” it was Sam who rescued Frodo from captivity. It was then that he returned the Ring to Frodo. As they approached Mordor, Sam once again rescued Frodo, this time from the ever-powerful temptation of the Ring, when Frodo felt irresistably attracted to its empty promises.
Here more than ever, Sam shows us what true friendship is all about. True friends aren’t there just for the good times. They’re there also for the bad, and in those times, they’re not afraid to get tough on us in order to lead us to our good, sometimes saving us even from ourselves.
The gospel story today is about the healing of the paralytic, but the healing would not have been possible had it not been for his friends. These were the men who brought him into the house to lay him before Jesus, the very ones who fought through the crowd bearing him on a mat. Because of all the people crowding around Jesus, the paralytic couldn’t get anywhere near the Lord. So what did his friends do? They went up the roof, still carrying the mat and the paralytic, made a hole in the roof and let the paralytic down through the tiles into the middle of the crowd.
I was thinking: The inconvenience of carrying a paralytic through a crowd as thick as the one surrounding Jesus would be enough to discourage anyone—unless of course the service would fetch a great fee. But even if they were in fact hired men, paid for their services, wouldn’t they be discouraged to continue what they were trying to do after some unsuccessful attempt? But up the roof they went, and down the roof came the paralytic, almost at the feet of Jesus. And so I suspect that these men were friends of the paralytic, people who cared for him and loved him and wanted him healed more than anything else.
The evangelist tells us that even before turning to the paralytic, our Lord marveled at the faith of these friends of the paralytic. And so, aside from showing us the compassion of our Lord, this episode is also a story of friendship, the meaning of truefriendship. At the end of the day, a true friend keeps us away from trouble–like Samwise–and more importantly, leads us to the Lord, like the paralytic’s friends who bore him on their shoulders.
How many times have we felt helpless and unable to move on because of some heavy burden? How many times could we not get close to the Lord on our own because of our problems? Often in our lives, we have needed friends to help us—sometimes even to do something as drastic as wrapping us up in a mat and delivering us to the Lord, even if this means shoving others out of the way and drilling a hole in somebody’s roof just to lay us at the Lord’s feet.
Let’s spend some time today naming our true friends, and thanking the Lord for them.
(image: from “The Fellowship of the Ring”)