Carry the Stretcher

July 1, 2021

Each day, I reflect upon a word or a phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.

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. Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. (Matthew 9:1-8)

CARRY THE STRETCHER: Since being ordained, it seems that more and more people are asking me to pray for them or for someone they know who is suffering. I understand why we ask saints to intercede on our behalf. Saints are closer to God, right? They live in the same neighborhood and can walk over, knock on His door, and speak with Him directly. So while I have dutifully prayed for anyone who has asked, I have been a bit unsure of how my prayers would be of any great benefit.

Today’s gospel reading offers some insight into this shared responsibility to pray. Jesus was traveling from town to town, preaching to all and healing the afflicted. A paralyzed man wanted desperately to be in the presence of Jesus. He was confident that simply being in the presence of Jesus would cure him and allow him to walk again. However, the crowd was too big and the paralyzed man could not get close enough. Others interceded on his behalf. They carried his stretcher, made their way through the crowd, and brought him to where Jesus stood.

The words of the gospel that appeared just before Jesus healed the paralyzed man resonated with me: “When Jesus saw their faith…”

The paralyzed man had great faith. He believed Jesus could heal him. He also believed that there was strength in numbers. He knew he couldn’t do it alone, so he called upon others to help. A pivotal part of the story – the others responded. They, too, believed. They made it possible for the paralyzed man to reach Jesus.

It was their faith Jesus saw – that of the paralyzed man and those who carried the stretcher.

Next time someone asks you to pray for him or for someone close to him who is suffering, set aside the thought that your intercession is not good enough. Picture yourself carrying the stretcher. Think of yourself as one of the people making it possible for that person to be in the presence of Jesus.

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