The Fable of the Lion and the Mouse,
Painting by Frans Snyders (1579-1657),
Mid 17th century,
Oil on canvas
© Sotheby's New York, 26 January 2012, lot 24, sold $662,000
I call you friends
Jesus said to his disciples:
‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.
Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete. This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.
You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I shall not call you servants any more, because a servant does not know his master’s business;
I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father.
You did not choose me: no, I chose you; and I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last; and then the Father will give you anything you ask him in my name. What I command you is to love one another.’
Reflection on the painting
In our gospel reading today Jesus talks about friendship. He said to his disciples, ‘I call you friends’. We all have a need for friends. Even Jesus was hungry for true friendships. The problem in our fast paced world is finding the time to create real friends. Where do we even find good friends? With television and the internet, it certainly has become easier to keep in touch with friends, but we spend so much time glued to our screens that the personal, human, face-to-face contact is in danger of getting diluted.
Sometimes the smallest of friends can make the biggest impact in our lives. It is often the ones we don’t see so often who are there for us when we badly need support. The smallest of friendships matter. This is beautifully illustrated in a short story from Aesop’s fables about a lion and a mouse. One day a lion was sleeping in his den. A small mouse was playing nearby. By accident, the little mouse ran over the lion’s back, which made the lion wake up. The lion caught the mouse and was ready to kill it. ‘Please do not kill me,’ said the mouse. ‘I am a tiny creature. Please save me.’ The lion felt pity for the mouse, smiled and let the mouse go. A few days after the lion was walking in a jungle but found himself caught in a hunter’s net. He roared and rolled to get out of the net, but he was trapped. The mouse heard the roar and ran towards the lion and said ‘Please don’t roar. I’ll set you free.’ The small mouse cut through the net and set the lion free.
This sweet story about how the smallest of friends matter in our lives is beautiful illustrated in this painting after Franz Snyders. We see the lion wrestling in the poacher’s nets. Soon the little mouse will come to rescue him…
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