Jesus Heals


On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.
Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking,
“Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?”
But they kept silent; so he took the man and,
after he had healed him, dismissed him.
Then he said to them
“Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern,
would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”
But they were unable to answer his question.

Luke 14:1-6


Jesus Healing the Sick, Rembrandt, etching, 1647, British Museum, London

Jesus Healing the Sick, Rembrandt, etching, 1647, British Museum, London

Though this image shows a different Healing episode than the one in today’s lectionary reading, it really caught my eye.

From the British Museum website:

This was the most famous of Rembrandt’s prints throughout the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth century. Its traditional title can be traced back to within a few years of its creation, and a later story holds that Rembrandt himself paid this very high price at auction in order to buy back an impression.

The etching illustrates various incidents from chapter 19 of St Matthew’s Gospel: ‘And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there’ (v. 2). The group on the far left are presumably Pharisees asking Christ about divorce (v. 3-9). A young mother steps up to Christ so that he may lay his hands on her child. Peter thrusts her back, looking to Christ for approval. ‘But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’ (v. 14). The variety of poses, facial expressions and gestures give us clues to the character and inner life of over thirty-five individuals in this print. Rembrandt perfected them in a number of preparatory drawings.

The great mass of dark tone above Christ, an effect very difficult to achieve in etching without breaking up the surface of the copper plate, is unprecedented in the history of the medium. The result is one of Rembrandt’s most remarkable and highly finished works.


The Bent Over Woman

Jesus was teaching in a synagogue on the sabbath.
And a woman was there who for eighteen years
had been crippled by a spirit;
she was bent over, completely incapable of standing erect.
When Jesus saw her, he called to her and said,
“Woman, you are set free of your infirmity.”
He laid his hands on her,
and she at once stood up straight and glorified God.
But the leader of the synagogue,
indignant that Jesus had cured on the sabbath,
said to the crowd in reply,
“There are six days when work should be done.
Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day.”
The Lord said to him in reply, “Hypocrites!
Does not each one of you on the sabbath
untie his ox or his ass from the manger
and lead it out for watering?
This daughter of Abraham,
whom Satan has bound for eighteen years now,
ought she not to have been set free on the sabbath day
from this bondage?”
When he said this, all his adversaries were humiliated;
and the whole crowd rejoiced at all the splendid deeds done by him.

Luke 13:10-17

Jesus Heals the Bent Over Woman, detail from the Two Brothers Sarcophagus, mid-4th century, Vatican Collections, Rome

Jesus Heals the Bent Over Woman, detail from the Two Brothers Sarcophagus, mid-4th century, Vatican Collections, Rome


Two Brothers Sarcophagus

Two Brothers Sarcophagus





Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd,
Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus,
sat by the roadside begging.
On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth,
he began to cry out and say,
“Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.”
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. 
But he kept calling out all the more,
“Son of David, have pity on me.”
Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”
So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. 
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” 
The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” 
Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” 
Immediately he received his sight
and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:46-52

Christ Healing the Blind, El Greco (Domeniko1570s Theotokopoulos), 47 x 57 1/2 in. (119.4 x 146.1 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Christ Healing the Blind, El Greco (Domeniko Theotokopoulos), 1570,  47 x 57 1/2 in. (119.4 x 146.1 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


The Barren Fig Tree

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans
whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices.
He said to them in reply,
“Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way
they were greater sinners than all other Galileans?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!
Or those eighteen people who were killed
when the tower at Siloam fell on them—
do you think they were more guilty
than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem?
By no means!
But I tell you, if you do not repent,
you will all perish as they did!”

And he told them this parable:
“There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard,
and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none,
he said to the gardener,
‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree
but have found none.
So cut it down.
Why should it exhaust the soil?’
He said to him in reply,
‘Sir, leave it for this year also,
and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it;
it may bear fruit in the future.
If not you can cut it down.’”

Luke 13:1-9

The Barren Fig Tree, N.C. Wyeth 1931

The Barren Fig Tree, N.C. Wyeth 1923


The Barren Fig Tree was  painted by N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), an American artist and prolific illustrator, for a set of Christmas cards depicting the parables of Jesus. (For more of Wyeth’s work, click here) These card sets can now be found occasionally on auction websites, and reproductions were used in the 1931 edition of The Parables of Jesus by S. Parkes Cadman.

From an auction site:

This beautiful vintage N C WYETH Illustrated Christmas Card “The Barren Fig Tree” Luke X111:6-9 NR . Front page Reads ” To Greet You in the Name of Him Born this Day in a Manger”quot;. There were Six in the set of Christmas Cards illustrating Parables of Jesus. Folding single-sheet cards, each measuring 8×12 unfolded. Each card with Christmas sentiment, printed in blue, with decoration in gilt and light & dark blue; text of a parable, printed in black, with a large initial in gilt and a lavish floral border, in gilt, light orange, light & dark blue, & green; reproduction in full color of a painting by Wyeth above a caption with floral border. Chadds Ford, PA: N.C. Wyeth, 1923 Around 1920 the Unitarian Laymen’s League of Boston commissioned the celebrated artist and illustrator N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945) to produce a series of paintings that would illustrate the parables of Jesus in the artist’s robust, realistic style. The intention was to publish the newly-illustrated parables in book form, but that project fell through. Instead, six images were published as a group of religious Christmas cards, with decorations and lettering by Theodore Brown Hapgood, Jr. (1871-1938). 600,000 cards were printed, but few seem to have survived. As Douglas Allen remarks, “These cards are now rare collector’s items.”

For a thoughtful explanation of today’s scripture, click here.

St. Paul Preaching in Rome

St. Paul Among the Ruins, Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1791, Prado Museum, Madrid

St. Paul Among the Ruins, Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1791, Prado Museum, Madrid

Brothers and sisters:
I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh.
The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not.
For I do not do the good I want,
but I do the evil I do not want.
Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it,
but sin that dwells in me.
So, then, I discover the principle
that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.
For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self,
but I see in my members another principle
at war with the law of my mind,
taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
Miserable one that I am!
Who will deliver me from this mortal body?
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 7:18-25




Are you a Faithful Servant?

Beaune Altarpiece with the Last Judgment, Rogier Van der Weyden, 1445-50, Hospices de Beaune

Beaune Altarpiece with the Last Judgment, Rogier Van der Weyden, 1445-50, Hospices de Beaune

Jesus said to his disciples: 
“Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you, he will put him
in charge of all his property.
But if that servant says to himself,
‘My master is delayed in coming,’
and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants,
to eat and drink and get drunk,
then that servant’s master will come
on an unexpected day and at an unknown hour
and will punish the servant severely
and assign him a place with the unfaithful.
That servant who knew his master’s will
but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will
shall be beaten severely;
and the servant who was ignorant of his master’s will
but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating
shall be beaten only lightly. 
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much,
and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Luke 12:39-48

The Last Judgment, Hans Memling, 1467-71, National Museum, Gdańsk, Poland

The Last Judgment, Hans Memling, 1467-71, National Museum, Gdańsk, Poland


Rogier Van Der Weyden is one of my favorite Northern Renaissance artists and his Beaune Altarpiece with the last judgment is a tour-de-force. It’s actually fifteen separate paintings on oak panels, some painted on both sides, assembled into a complex folding altarpiece, or polyptych. Here it is closed.

Beaune Altarpiece folded, Rogier Van der Weyden

Beaune Altarpiece folded, Rogier Van der Weyden

Here we see the donors who commissioned the work on the sides with angels. In the center are figures painted to look like like statues, a technique known as grisaille, with Sts. Sebastian and Anthony, and the Archangel Gabriel with the Virgin Mary above.


The opened Altarpiece measures an enormous 220cm x 548 cm, roughly 7 ft tall by 18 ft.wide! The scene of the last judgment shows Christ appearing in Glory, with the archangel Michael weighing souls. There’s a decent Wikipedia article about this masterpiece if you would like more information.


The other work is by Rogier’s student, Hans Memling, and may have been inspired by his master’s work. It is a triptych, with three panels.


Be sure to click on the paintings to see details.

Through One Man

Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.

If by that one person’s transgression the many died,
how much more did the grace of God
and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ
overflow for the many.
For if, by the transgression of the one,
death came to reign through that one,
how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace
and the gift of justification
come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, just as through one transgression
condemnation came upon all,
so, through one righteous act
acquittal and life came to all.
For just as through the disobedience of one man
the many were made sinners,
so, through the obedience of the one
the many will be made righteous.
Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,
so that, as sin reigned in death,
grace also might reign through justification
for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

ROM 5:12, 15B, 17-19, 20B-21


Adam and Eve, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Adam and Eve, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1526, The Courtauld Gallery, London


From the Courtauld Gallery website:

Adam and Eve brilliantly combines devotional meaning with pictorial elegance and invention.

The scene is set in a forest clearing where Eve stands before the Tree of Knowledge, caught in the act of handing an apple to a bewildered Adam. Entwined in the tree’s branches above, the serpent looks on as Adam succumbs to temptation.

A rich menagerie of birds and animals – a stag, a hind, a sheep, a roe-buck with its mate, a lion, a wild boar and a horse, and partridges, a stork and a heron – completes this seductive vision of Paradise. On the tree-trunk are the date 1526 and the bat-winged serpent which formed part of Cranach’s coat of arms.

The painting is particularly admired for its treatment of the human figure and for the profusion of finely painted details, including animals and vegetation. Cranach delights in capturing details such as the roe-buck catching its reflection in the foreground pool of water.

Cranach, who was a close friend of Martin Luther, worked at the court of Saxony. The artist, who was famous for his landscapes, representations of animals and nudes, found Adam and Eve a subject which was ideally suited to his gifts and to which the Lutherans did not object. He and his workshop treated it many times in paintings and prints.

This painting is influenced by Dürer’s celebrated engravings of the same subject, dated 1504. Dürer had also included many animals, but, while Dürer’s animals may be interpreted as allusions to the Four Humours, Cranach’s animals are less solemn and portentous.

A related drawing at Dresden, though closer to Dürer’s print, is still less solemn than the painting; there Eve puts the apple in Adam’s mouth and Adam holds a phallic apple-branch which both conceals and connects his and Eve’s genitals.

The vine, not present in the drawing, refers to the Redemption, so that the picture has some didactic function. While the pairing of the sheep with the lion may have a moral meaning, the association of Adam with the sheep is perhaps intended as a wry comment on his behaviour.

The principal purpose of the painting, which was presumably made for a wealthy collector, is evidently to give pleasure rather than instruction. Cranach holds a balance between highly decorative, stylized forms and an immediacy and liveliness of presentation. The unexpectedly free technique of the foliage and grass is a reminder that Cranach was renowned for his speed of working.

The Suffering Servant

The LORD was pleased
to crush him in infirmity.

If he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.

Because of his affliction
he shall see the light in fullness
of days;
through his suffering, my servant shall justify many,
and their guilt he shall bear.

Isaiah 53:10-11

Christ Crowned with Thorns, Caravaggio, ca.1604, Kunsthistorisches Museen, Vienna

Christ Crowned with Thorns, Caravaggio, ca.1604, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


On Friday I had the good fortune to tour the traveling exhibit, “Hapsburg Splendor: Masterpiece s from Vienna’s Imperial Collections, at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta from Oct.18-Jan. 17. After viewing several galleries of wonderful paintings and objects, I entered the next room and was stunned when I came upon this incredible painting, attributed to the great Caravaggio (though not without some dispute).

For several months, I’ve been using an iPhone app called Mysteries of the Holy Rosary, which incorporates high quality Baroque art into each decade. As you know, I’m all about visual aids to contemplation and I highly recommend this app! This painting is used for contemplating the Sorrowful Mystery of Christ’s suffering with the crowning of thorns. Having never been to Vienna, I had not seen this work in person, only within the tiny confines of my iPhone screen. So when I turned the corner and came face to face with it, I was literally so stunned that I cried out, “Oh…oh…oh”! I’m sure the security guard thought I was a little strange.

As I gazed on this image of our Lord in his suffering, I was completely overwhelmed. I felt the same grief and joy as I did when I first turned my life over to Christ in adulthood and came fully into the Church. On that occasion it was a Spanish Baroque crucifix in the California San Luis Rey Mission that evoked these complex feelings of pathos and gratitude, with the overwhelming thought, “You did THAT for ME?!?” Seeing this painting recaptured that same incredible grace.

If you live near Atlanta, get yourself to the High Museum ASAP to view this masterpiece. It’s worth the price of admission.

Ignatius of Antioch

Martyrdom of Ignatius of Antioch, Church of San Clemente, Rome

Martyrdom of Ignatius of Antioch, Pierleone Ghezzi, 1700-1720, fresco, Basilica of San Clemente, Rome

For information on St. Ignatius of Antioch, the first Church Father to use the term ‘catholic’ and a martyr who was devoured by lions in Rome in 107 A.D., please visit this link.

Menologion of Basil II, Menologion of Basileiou - 11th century illuminated byzantine manuscript with 430 miniatures, now in Vatican library (Vaticanus graecus 1613).

Ignatius of Antioch’s Martyrdom. Menologion of Basil II – 11th century illuminated byzantine manuscript with 430 miniatures, now in Vatican library (Vaticanus graecus 1613).





Abraham Believed

Brothers and sisters:
What can we say that Abraham found,
our ancestor according to the flesh?
Indeed, if Abraham was justified on the basis of his works,
he has reason to boast;
but this was not so in the sight of God.
For what does the Scripture say?
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
A worker’s wage is credited not as a gift, but as something due.
But when one does not work,
yet believes in the one who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is credited as righteousness.
So also David declares the blessedness of the person
to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven
and whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not record.

Romans 4:1-8

Sacrifice of Isaac, Caravaggio, 1608, Ufizzi Gallery, Florence

Sacrifice of Isaac, Caravaggio, 1608, Ufizzi Gallery, Florence