Fraternity: Bringing Brothers to Christ
In the second chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel we hear this:
“1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins—he said to the paralytic— 11 ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’ 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mk 2:1-12)
Jesus preached the Gospel, healed the sick, and cast out demons as soon as He began His public ministry. So, He was definitely famous. When He returned to Capernaum, we hear in the Gospel that there was no room in the house in which He was preaching - not even at the door. If Jesus was in our town, I am sure that you and I would be one of those people clamoring to be near Him and hear what He has to say.
It is into these circumstances that four men bring a paralytic on a mat. They could not get near Jesus because the house was so full, so they removed the roof! They lowered the mat through the roof so that Jesus could heal Him. Just imagine being one of the people in the house - what in the world is going on?! But Jesus sees the man, sees his faith and the faith of the four men who brought him, and tells him that his sins are forgiven. He does not just say, “Get up, man” and perform a miracle. He says “your sins are forgiven.” Then, the man is healed, gets up, and walks out.
I am sure that if you have been Christian for any length of time, you have heard this passage. But there is one aspect that I want to focus on today: fraternity and bringing our brothers to Christ.
If one of our brothers (biological or close friend) is sick, we can bring him to a doctor. If one of our brothers is sad, we can cheer him up. If one of our brothers is hungry, we can feed him. But what if our brother is sinning? One of the most powerful things that brothers can do for one another is hold each other accountable. But accountability only goes so far. Who but God has the power to forgive sins? As Jesus shows us with the four men and their paralytic friend, He can heal our physical issues, but, more importantly, He is the only one who can heal our souls. When brothers confess to one another, there is a comradery that, if it is a holy friendship, leads to the Sacrament of Penance. When we ourselves are trapped in sin, we need our brothers to be courageous enough to speak up and we need to be humble enough to accept their fraternal correction.
Iron sharpens iron. And brotherhood is one of the most powerful tools that a man has in his arsenal on the walk towards Heaven. I guarantee you, at least once in your life that walk will come to a screeching halt and you will be the paralytic on the mat. Who are the brothers in your life that will move heaven and earth - or a roof - to get you nearer to Jesus?
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