Just read a review by Gary Wills of a book by Peter Brown about St. Augustine and other early saints. Augustine was someone who couldn’t live outside a community. He needed friends around him from his earliest years and later as a bishop lived in a community, because he appreciated the help he got from others. It wasn’t that he needed an audience. He needed others to carry him along, to put up with him, because he was a sinner.
In a sermon in today’s liturgy of the hours, Augustine scolds the shepherds of the church for not befriending their flock. Their sheep want good pasture; they’re looking for healing. “You have failed to strengthen the weak,” the Lord says to them. They need shepherds, but do they also need friends?
Augustine turns to the paralyzed man in the gospel. He needed friends to carry him to be healed, friends with faith in him, friends to bear his burden. They carry him up the roof and lower him down into the presence of Jesus. Yet, before Jesus says a word to the paralytic, did he hear from his friends, “Don’t be afraid?”