The Healing of the Paralytic,
Anonymous Netherlandish painter,
Oil on panel
© National Gallery of Art, Washington
Get up, and pick up your bed, your sins are forgiven
Jesus got in the boat, crossed the water and came to his own town. Then some people appeared, bringing him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, my child, your sins are forgiven.’ And at this some scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ Knowing what was in their minds Jesus said, ‘Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts? Now, which of these is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But to prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘get up, and pick up your bed and go off home.’ And the man got up and went home. A feeling of awe came over the crowd when they saw this, and they praised God for giving such power to men.
reflection on the painting
Our 16th-century Netherlandish painting depicts the paralytic after he has been healed by Jesus, as in our Gospel reading today. In the distance we see him before his healing, lying on his makeshift mattress. But most of the painting is a large depiction of the man, on the road (depicted on the right) towards a new life. He is healed and humbled by the experience. He is looking down at the ground. Probably for most of his life he had been looking upwards at all the people passing him by. Now he is looking down: his life has been turned upside down.
The paralytic man represents all of us: in need of God’s forgiveness. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus asserts his authority to forgive sins. He says, ‘Get up, and pick up your bed and go off home: your sins are forgiven’.
In today’s reading, the paralysed man was brought to Jesus by friends or neighbours: he couldn't have got there on his own. If it hadn't been for his friends, he would not have been healed. Forgiveness for his sins came to him through others. It is the same for us today. Our faith, while it is personal, is never to be private. Our faith prompts us to be brought by our friends to Jesus and for us to see the need that others have to be brought closer to Jesus. That is the community of the Church.
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