Today’s Gospel in Art – Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! | ICN – Independent Catholic News

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Sermon on Abstinence, by Jean Georges Vibert © Sotheby's New York

Sermon on Abstinence, by Jean Georges Vibert © Sotheby's New York

Source: Christian Art

Gospel of 23rd August 2021 - Matthew 23: 13-22



Jesus said: 'Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men's faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.

'Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.

'Alas for you, blind guides! You who say, "If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound." Fools and blind! For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? Or else, "If a man swears by the altar it has no force; but if a man swears by the offering that is on the altar, he is bound." You blind men! For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred? Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it. And when a man swears by the Temple he is swearing by that and by the One who dwells in it. And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.'

Reflection on the Painting

Jesus is using very strong condemnatory words against the religious leaders of the times. He attacks their hypocrisy. Four times he starts a sentence with 'Alas for you…' Jesus is addressing four criticisms to the Pharisees, but also to us. It is worth reflecting for a moment on each of the points Jesus makes:

The first 'Alas for you…' is against those who present the door of the Kingdom of God as being impossible to enter. God is presented by these people as a severe judge, leaving very little space for God's forgiveness and mercy.

The second 'Alas for you' is aimed against those who use religion to enrich themselves.

The third 'Alas for you' is a warning shot against those who will use the Gospel not to proclaim the Good News, but in order to attract people to their own fragmentary groups. They seek followers for themselves as a person, rather than to nurture followers for God.

The fourth one is against those who swear and make false promises.

The force of Jesus' words in our reading today is fierce. It really shows that hypocrisy is what disturbs Jesus the most. We pray that He may guide our hearts to prevent us from being too focussed on externals.

Jean Georges Vibert's painting titled 'Sermon on Abstinence', is a light hearted, humorous criticism of clerical hypocrisy. It depicts a bishop preparing a homily on abstinence during Lent. The monk acting as scribe is seated at a table displaying an abundance of food and wine. These late 19th-century genre paintings, lightly poking fun at some established members of society, such as clerics and politicians, are always good fun to look at. Painted with meticulous detail, these images of amusement were already highly collected and favoured at the time.

LINKS

Today's story - https://christian.art/en/daily-gospel-reading/907

Christian Art - https:/www.christian.art

Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Jean Georges Vibert

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