Thursday, October 25, 2012

When a picture speaks louder than words

With no special goal or direction in mind, I wondered around the west wing of the Main Floor Gallery at the National Gallery of Art, came around a corner, and stopped in front of an oil painting I had never seen before:

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son,your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus,perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them,“Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 

10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 

12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” [Gospel of Mark 2:1-12]

When I've previously heard this story proclaimed at Mass, I pictured a feeble man, carrying the equivalent of a door mat... but our Lord is much more generous than my imagination! He healed the paralytic and brought him back to wholeness, no matter how massive the paralytic's old baggage. 

Netherlandish 16th Century (painter)
The Healing of the Paralytic, c. 1560/1590
oil on panel
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.