And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven” (Mt 9:2).
Matthew’s account of this scene is much simpler than Mark and Luke’s, but the point is the same. The person paralyzed received healing because some people were willing to bear his weight and creatively bring him to Jesus. In neither of the three Gospel accounts do we know who the people are that bring this man to Jesus for healing. Were they family, friends, or neighbors? It does not matter. They were aware of someone in need, they believed Jesus could heal, and they put forth the effort to bring this man to Jesus.
Are we like the people in today’s Gospel; are we aware, do we care? St. Mother Teresa often said that people are “not only hungry for bread – but hungry for love, naked not only for clothing – but naked for human dignity and respect, homeless not only for want of home and bricks, – but homeless because of rejection.” If we are living our faith, indifference to the needs of others is not an option. We are not to rationalize why we ought not to care, or worse give in to our fears and prejudices so to dehumanize and reject others in need.
Are we aware, are we willing to care that there are human beings in need? How is God speaking to our conscience, how is he moving our hearts? If we feel called and moved to support the unborn – good, the refugee or immigrant – good, black people clamoring to be treated with dignity – good. There are so many who are hurting and suffering. Let us not get trapped into criticizing others for reaching out to help in a different way than we feel called. We just need to be honest about where God is leading us and act as the four in our Gospel reading today did; be aware of someone in need, be willing to meet that need, access our personal gifts of creativity, and bring them to Jesus as we are able. By collaborating with Jesus in this way miracles can and still do happen. Structures of inhumanity and injustice can be turned around.
We need to reject the temptation to turn away from another person in need, and instead respect the human dignity of those we encounter. Pope Francis is clear about the dignity of all life. He tweeted in 2013: “It is God who gives life. Let us respect and love human life, especially vulnerable life in a mother’s womb.” Pope Francis shared during Mass on Sunday, January 14, 2018: “Migrants and refugees don’t represent just a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved.” On June 3, 2020, Pope Francis said, “My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life”.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Do we?
Painting: Healing of the Paralytic – James Tissot
See also Mark 2:1-12, Matthew 9:1-8 and Luke 5:17-26