It is difficult to overstate the importance of friends. When we stop to think about all the times in our lives when we were struggling with important decisions, it was almost always the advice or the prayer of a friend or mentor that settled us. In my early days as a friar, there was an older priest who was forever warning us not to miss the forest for the trees, and his mentoring words of wisdom often come back to me when I start to stare at a problem so closely that I fail to see the big picture. Stepping back from a difficulty is always in order when we try too hard to do the right thing.
Today's gospel is about friendship. A paralyzed man who hears about Jesus has no way to see or visit the Lord unless friends help him, and the friends in this gospel text go the extra mile. Though Jesus is surrounded by needy people, the paralytic's friends are not deterred. They go up on the roof, dig through it and lower their friend in front of Jesus. It is really an amazing scene which the scribes cannot spoil with the mumbling about Jesus not having the power to forgive sins. So anxious not to lose their teaching role in the society, the scribes think nothing about the paralytic while the man's friends think of nothing else. Who doesn't yearn for friends like this?
Knowing how important friendship is, however, is not enough. We cannot simply pray for friends to help us; the gospel demands that, like the paralytic's friends, we become friends to one another. Listening to the ache of friends, sharing their joys, feeding them when they are hungry, and delighting in their everyday triumphs, is as powerful a sign of God's love as Jesus' cure of the paralyzed man.
Today, rejoice in those who have "lowered" you into the presence of the living God.