Readings: 1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22a; Psalm 89; Mark 2:1-12
Who were the four men who carried the paralytic to Jesus? The gospels do not give us their names but some of the Fathers of the Church were sure that they must have been Peter, Andrew, James and John. We heard earlier this week about the calling of these first four apostles. In Mark's gospel this passage about the healing of the paralytic comes not very long after the calling of the apostles. Matthew's gospel tells us that they not only left everything to follow Jesus but that they did it immediately. It is not a crazy idea, then, to think that this is who brought the man to Jesus, the apostles getting down to the business of helping Jesus in his work.
If we follow this line of thought then we see what the apostolic task involves: it means bringing people to Jesus. This is all that the apostolic Church needs to do, the whole of its task. It is the task of those who belong, as Dominicans do, to a religious order that regards itself as apostolic (living the lifestyle of the apostles). In fact it is the task of every Christian because all who are baptised and confirmed in Christ are by that fact commissioned to be His witnesses and to do what they can to bring others to him.
The men need to be creative to get this particular individual into the presence of Jesus. He is paralysed and lying on a bed. The crowd has filled the place where Jesus was. There is no way they can squeeze in, not with a load as awkward as they are carrying. But someone thinks of the roof. It is another way to get the man into the presence of Jesus and this is what they do.
The gospel tells us that Jesus was preaching the word to the people gathered round him. In writing about the ministry of the Word, our service of the Word of God as preachers of the gospel, the Dominican constitutions use a lovely phrase: part of our work is to seek 'new ways to the truth', they say. The truth, of course, is Jesus. Our task then is to continue searching for new ways to get to Jesus, new ways to bring people to Him and to bring Him to people. There are many obstacles that can obscure our access, block our path, cloud our vision, and tempt us to turn away and give up trying to get to him. But the preachers, the apostles, those called to accompany Christ in his work must be ever active and endlessly creative, on the lookout for new ways of helping people to get into His presence.
We can become weighed down by the many difficulties and disheartened by the many challenges. Questions come from science and philosophy, questions come from politics and social trends, questions come from scandals and the counter witness of so many of us. Sometimes it can seem impossible, the task of speaking well about Jesus in the modern world, the task of witnessing to Him by a life that is prayerful and holy. But we must keep at it and like the men in the gospel be active, be creative, be imaginative about our work. And then be prepared for wonderful things to happen.