Head of an Old Man,
Sculpted by Augustin Pajou (1730-1809),
Sculpted in 1761,
Terracotta
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Head of an Old Man,
Sculpted by Augustin Pajou (1730-1809),
Sculpted in 1761,
Terracotta
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Gospel of 13 February 2023

With a sigh that came straight from the heart

Mark 8:11-13

The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

Reflection on the terracotta bust

Throughout the Gospel of Mark, we regularly get significant little personal details about Jesus that are not mentioned in the other gospels. Mark writes that ‘with a sigh that came straight from the heart’ Jesus continued to address the Pharisees. At this stage in the story, Jesus had already been doing plenty of miracles, yet still they didn’t believe him. They wanted even more signs…. When would they have enough signs to believe? What sort of signs did they need? What sort of signs do we think we need?

We read about a frustrated Jesus today. He didn’t just get frustrated with the Pharisees, but sometimes also with his own disciples, who often didn’t grasp what Jesus was teaching them. We like to think that if we had lived in the days of Jesus we would have been moved by his miracles and that would have given us enough 'signs’ for us to believe fully. So we can be a little too judgemental towards the Pharisees and even the disciples at times: why didn’t they understand completely what Jesus was teaching them? They simply needed time to let things sink in, to come to terms with what they had witnessed... and of course they needed to witness the crucifixion and experience the Resurrection, so they could then fully understand who Jesus really was.

Our terracotta bust of 1761 is by French sculptor Augustin Pajou. This is quite a different from the busy by Bernini that we looked at yesterday. It depicts an old man just after a deep sigh. When we sigh, at the end of the sigh, we tend to lower our heads in our chest. That is the very moment depicted here. The bust is a little larger than life-size, which would correspond with its being a full-scale model and a highly finished study of a living model who would have posed in the artist’s studio. This bust can more appropriately be seen in the context of Têtes d’Expression, in which heads (faces) were created as an academic exercise in depicting human emotion. Such studies were a requirement of sculptors who wished to be officially recognised by the French Academy.

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Enrique Rodolfo Ansaldi
Member
Enrique Rodolfo Ansaldi
1 year ago

Si queremos salvarnos nos resultan suficientes los pequeños gestos del Corazón Dulce y Manso de Jesús y Sus palabras Siempre Precisas.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 year ago

I have been lifted by today’s posts as much as the gospel, image and reflection. Thanks folks.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago

But loads of signs had been given to that generation. Our faith today has to survive on the miracles performed by Our Lord during his very brief ministry. I remember a famous priest saying that when he was young he wanted ‘proof’ of the existence of God. He prayed for God to just twitch the curtain in his bedroom. Later he realised that faith had to be a bit more profound than that.
Incidentally that has always been a worry for me as concerns the Holy Shroud of Turin. Would ‘proof’ of Jesus’ divinity be left behind?

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago

After Mass on Saturday night I was helping clear after the pots after we’d had a cup of tea together. I was asked if I’d heard about the parish priest’s Eucharistic miracle? I just said, ‘Isn’t the Eucharist of itself a miracle?’ It seems that for us sometimes even the Eucharist isn’t enough!
Another lovely sculpture, Patrick, and I hope you enjoyed the opera!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Yes – I too was wondering about the Aida performance!

Adriana
Member
Adriana
1 year ago

What a feeling frustration is, often accompany by impotency, it can led to poor decisions and to sadness beyond comprehension.
Sometimes I tent to believe if I expressed myself better this hadn’t been so frustrating! But today I realize that, even if the Master, who had dominion of the word and of everything created had this feeling then is inevitable for me. Maybe if I expect less would frustrate less too.
Good morning CA family!

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago
Reply to  Adriana

Morning Adriana!

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
1 year ago
Reply to  Adriana

“…this feeling then is inevitable for me.” Even Jesus was frustrated. That thought comforts me. Thank you. Blessings.

Adriana
Member
Adriana
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Crain

Thanks for the empathy Mark, have a great day

Mike Baird
Member
Mike Baird
1 year ago

Out of their disbelief, the Pharisees demand a sign from Jesus. Jesus leaves them with their unbelief.

Countless miracles had already been instigated by Jesus but the Pharisees demanded more. Would one more sign have been enough to change their hearts? Probably not. The signs were not what Jesus came for. They are simply signposts pointing to his real message which is to turn from sin and come back home to God.

Faith is a belief in things unseen. Jesus said blessed are those who have not seen yet believe. That’s me. I’m grateful for the healings, blessings and miracles (including the very beating of my heart at the moment) that I have witnessed, but my faith doesn’t rely on them.

Thank you Jesus for the gift of faith you have given me. Help me be a sign so others may believe.
Saint Philip Neri, please pray for us.

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