Christ casting out the legion of Devils,
Made by Bruce Connor (1933-2008),
Jacquard tapestry,
Conceived in 1987, woven in 2003
© Paula Cooper gallery, New York

Christ casting out the legion of Devils,
Made by Bruce Connor (1933-2008),
Jacquard tapestry,
Conceived in 1987, woven in 2003
© Paula Cooper gallery, New York

Gospel of 9 July 2019

Jesus casts out the devil

Matthew 9: 32-37

A man was brought to Jesus, a dumb demoniac. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed. ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel’ they said. But the Pharisees said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’

Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

Reflection on the Tapestry

Today’s artwork is a modern tapestry, woven in 2003, by San Francisco based artist Bruce Connor, famous for his collage pieces. The image is based on a print by the German Romantic artist Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld. Schorr's Bible (1857-60) included many illustrations and ours in particular depicts the story of the Gospel reading of today, where Jesus exorcises a man of his demons. In the original illustration the man is so deeply affected by the devils, that he no longer bears any resemblance to his former self. Conner took this image and adapted it, by juxtaposing the figure of the possessed man with geometric collage clippings. By doing this the artist doesn’t show the horror of the man possessed by the devil, nor does he explain how Christ cast out the devils. He simply shows a puzzle of shapes, illustrating that the power of the exorcism simply can’t be depicted. It goes beyond illustrative possibilities.

As soon as Jesus looked at the man, he ordered the demon to leave the man, and it left, because it could not withstand the will of God. It is really the amazement of the crowds to the miracles that stands out for me: the people were amazed. Yes it must have been quite a thing to witness. They saw up close God's power at work and alongside some of the other miracles they had been witnessing or heard accounts off, the revelation of the Messiah must have been gradually entering into the consciousness of the people, little by little, with every miracle… The crowds were amazed at Jesus' unique power, in stark contrast with the power-hungry Pharisees for whom Jesus could do nothing right.

Like the Pharisees, we can always find a reason to disbelieve the works of God, even when we witness them up close. But whilst the Pharisees questioned, debated and criticised Christ’s works, the people continued being healed and their lives changed. Therefore like the people being healed, they kept focussed on Jesus, and not on the criticism uttered by the Pharisees. If we remained focussed on Him and consume our minds with His word, we will be ok… What consumes your mind, controls your life…

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