A Hospital Ward during the Chief Physician’s Round,
Painted by Louis Jimenez Aranda (1845-1928),
Painted in 1889,
Oil on canvas
© Prado Museum, Madrid
He cured many who were suffering from diseases
On leaving the synagogue, Jesus went with James and John straight to the house of Simon and Andrew. Now Simon’s mother-in-law had gone to bed with fever, and they told him about her straightaway. He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.
That evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were sick and those who were possessed by devils. The whole town came crowding round the door, and he cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another; he also cast out many devils, but he would not allow them to speak, because they knew who he was.
In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils.
Reflection on the painting
Our late 19th-century painting by Spanish artist Louis Aranda shows the tender care with which a doctor is attending to the patient. Onlookers are present. In our Gospel reading today we hear how each time Jesus is healing, onlookers are present as well, witnessing the miracles he is performing up close. Our painting won the gold medal for painting at the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris. the main attraction of that exhibition of course was the Eiffel Tower, a 300-meter high marvel of iron by Gustave Eiffel. But this painting here won first prize for painting. It is a social realist painting, depicting a visit to the hospital by a group of students accompanied by the chief physician, who teaches them how to examine the body of the patients. In this case, the patient is a semi-conscious young woman. The poor girl is unable to sit up on her own, so the doctor has asked one of the assistants, wearing a black hood, to help support her while he performs direct auscultation, the most important phase of the physical examination. This consists of putting the ear against the patient's back to listen to the rhythm of the heartbeat, an examination that is currently performed with a stethoscope. The other assistant, at the foot of the bed, holds sheets of paper with the medical history, ready to take notes.
Are we just an onlooker and a spectator to the Gospel and to the world around us, or do we get stuck in like the medical students in our painting and participate in the chief physicians mission to help heal the world?
After reading about the headlining ministry of Jesus in the first half of the reading, we read in the second half, how is is then withdrawing to pray. Activity is often more appreciated than prayer; that is true of our own time as much as it was of Jesus’ time. Yet, Jesus shows us that the kind of activity which is an expression of God’s work must always be rooted in prayer. In prayer we open ourselves to God, and that helps to ensure that our own activity is in harmony with God’s desire for ourselves and for others.
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Readings related to Mark 1:29-39
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