He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
7th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

The road is long, with many a winding turn
That leads us to who knows where, who knows where
But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

-The Hollies

These are lyrics to the song that has become an unofficial anthem in the 1970’s at the theological seminary where I graduated from. Those were years of social ferment and we, young people then, were in various shades of the ideological spectrum. Those were years of campus activism, repression by Martial Law, and growth of armed liberation movements.

Action Starter: Have you been helped? Pass it forward.

Whatever their historical limitations, one thing can be said about many from that generation, now in their late 50’s. They had a social conscience.

To have a social conscience is to be sensitive to the plight of those who are suffering. It is to be a person-for-others. It is to be compassionate and have the passion to help carry the weight that burdens others.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading tells the story of the paralytic man who was brought to Jesus (Mk. 2:1-12) by his four friends. They found ways to go around the thick crowd blocking the way. They climbed up the roof, made a hole in it, and lowered their sick friend on a mat to where Jesus was. This was not difficult to do since roofs were made of clay, held together by reeds or straw. Jesus was moved by the faith of these people and healed the sick man from his spiritual and physical ailment.

This story has lessons for those who are in the position of the paralyzed man and those who are in the position of his friends. We can be in need of help or be a helper. There are instances where a person feels so helpless, he is no longer able by himself to deal with a physical ailment, control a destructive habit (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling), or cope with a debilitating social situation (loss of a job). During these times of hopelessness and darkness, we need friends to lift us up. The faith of these friends can also enkindle our own faith.

This is what community is all about. A community is a group of friends who provide support for one another. Any rehabilitation process recognizes the importance of support groups. The presence of concerned friends is a strong factor in one’s road to recovery. From a state of helplessness, eventually a person is empowered to “stand, pick up his mat, and go home.” To go home is to be able to resume normal living. It is to be functional again. It is to be able to engage others in regular social situations.

Sometimes, helpers have to be reminded that the aim of assisting others is to make them independent of the helper. It is a sign of succesful rehabilitation if the helper is less and less needed. It is a poor couselor who boasts, “My client needs my help so much, he cannot live without me.”

The best sign that we have suceeded is to see someone who once was in need of help, now becoming the helper.