Friday, January 15, 2016

rise up, pick up your mat, and go home

With no special goal or direction in mind, I was enjoying a slow-paced afternoon of meandering around the west wing of the Main Floor Gallery at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. 

Then I came around a corner and stopped, suddenly startled, facing a rendition by an anonymous artist of a familiar Gospel story, a painting I had never seen before:


I immediately recognized the image as the story of the paralytic-- one that is told again in today's Gospel, Mark 2:1-12

I found everything about this image provoking.  

In the past, when I have heard the healing of the paralytic story proclaimed at Mass, I always pictured a feeble man--and in my mind's eye, the man was carrying something small, maybe equivalent to a door mat! 

But our Lord is much more generous and merciful than my imagination.

Jesus healed the paralytic and brought him back to wholeness. He gave him the strength, energy, ability--everything he needed--to enable him to walk away with his mat and go back to his life... no matter how massive or heavy was the paralytic's old baggage!

Now let the images walk you through the Scripture:


When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days,
it became known that he was at home.
Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them,
not even around the door,
and he preached the word to them.
They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd,
they opened up the roof above him.
After they had broken through,
they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying.



When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him,
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves,
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming.
Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
Jesus immediately knew in his mind what 
they were thinking to themselves, 
so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic,
‘Your sins are forgiven,’
or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?




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

He rose, picked up his mat at once, 

and went away in the sight of everyone.
They were all astounded
and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

The Healing of the Paralytic, c. 1560/1590
oil on panel
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 

[I originally wrote about this painting in my blog October 25, 2012]