Man is ordered to the good, the true, and the beautiful because, as the Catholic Church teaches, in such things we encounter God.
This is a painting and an image of divine mercy. As my good friend, Patrick van der Vorst, at Christian Art writes, the painting is capturing the moment where Jesus “picked the one lonely man to heal” and that it was the man’s helplessness which “drew Jesus to him.” Patrick’s Lenten Gospel reflection invites us to examine our own state. Are we in need of divine mercy? Do we invite Jesus into the preoccupations of our lives? Like the man in this story, it is our response to Jesus’ question that becomes life-changing.
As we approach the glory of Easter, let us allow the remaining days of Lent to help us examine the question Jesus proposes today: Do you want to be well? Let us respond humbly, not refusing God’s loving invitation to receive whatever is from him, which is always for our good.
For a reflection about this painting please enjoy below.
Peace be with you!
The fine arts, but above all sacred art, “of their nature are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands….”
Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 2513
christ healing the sick at bethesda
Reflection on the Painting
by Patrick van der Vorst
Today’s painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch shows Christ as the healer, the comforter and the One reaching out. He is seen gently lifting a blanket to reveal the sick man who was hiding from the crowds. He had been ill for thirty-eight years. The painting is capturing the moment where Jesus speaks the words in our Gospel today: ’Do you want to be well again?’ Of all the paralysed, sick, blind, lame people who were there, Jesus picked the one lonely man to heal. The painting captures particularly well that our man was cut off from the surroundings and lonely. His helplessness drew Jesus to him.
But to be healed, the man had to answer the question that Jesus put to him: ’Do you want to be well again?’ Jesus didn’t impose His own wishes on the man. No, the man was free to choose. We all have to answer that question too. Jesus is asking us this question every day. Especially during Lent we all may feel at times that we are paralysed, not able to walk well spiritually. We are invited today to respond to Jesus’ question to us.
The beauty of today’s reading lies in Jesus’ response to the man who expressed the wish to be healed. Jesus says: ‘Get up, pick up your sleeping-mat and walk’. To the sick man that all sounded impossible. Jesus asked the impossible, or what the man perceived to be impossible: for thirty-eight years he had been unable to get up; he had been unable to pick up a sleeping mat or walk… But by his responding positively to Jesus’ invitation, the impossible suddenly became possible.
Credit: Patrick van der Vorst, Gospel Reading for Today, Christian Art, "Do you want to be well again?" March 16, 2021; https://www.christian.art/todays-reading.php Information herein posted under the "rules of fair use" to foster education and discussion in accordance with Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976.
For today’s Gospel reading, John 5:1-3, 5-16, this Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Lent, visit https://bible.usccb.org/daily-bible-reading.
Truth, Beauty, and Sacred Art
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 2501
Created “in the image of God,” man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man (CCC 2501).
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Saint Paul, Letter to the Philippians (4:8)
St. Paul, Apostle, Martyr, pray for us.
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family, pray for us. Amen.