The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner,
Painting by Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873),
Painted in 1837,
Oil on canvas
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London / Alamy

The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner,
Painting by Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873),
Painted in 1837,
Oil on canvas
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London / Alamy

Gospel of 24 May 2022

It is for your own good that I am going 

John 16:5-11

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Now I am going to the one who sent me. Not one of you has asked, “Where are you going?”

Yet you are sad at heart because I have told you this. Still, I must tell you the truth: it is for your own good that I am going because unless I go, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I do go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will show the world how wrong it was, about sin, and about who was in the right, and about judgement: about sin: proved by their refusal to believe in me; about who was in the right: proved by my going to the Father and your seeing me no more; about judgement: proved by the prince of this world being already condemned.’

Reflection on the painting

In two days' time we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus says, ‘Now I am going to the one who sent me. Not one of you has asked, “Where are you going?” To be fair on the apostles, they were so grief stricken that they could simply not ask the right questions or make the right comments. But Jesus understood them, so he doesn’t give them a hard time. On the contrary, he tells them, ‘It is for your own good that I am going’. These lines of the Gospel are very human and filled with real love. Jesus interacts in a very gentle, tender way with his close friends, knowing that soon they would lose their best friend in his bodily form.

The disciples would soon experience a huge loss. But this loss would be life-giving and start something new. Losses are painful for all of us, especially the loss of family members or close friends. Over time we can begin to sense some new life emerging out of the loss. This emergence of new life may be slow and take a while, but we do adjust and eventually move towards a new way of living.

Our painting by Sir Edwin Landseer is titled 'The Old Shepherd's Chief Mourner’. It is a striking painting depicting loss. We see the deceased shepherd’s staff and hat on the right, underneath a table supporting a closed Bible. The dog is lamenting, resting his head on the coffin. The tangible loss is moving… The influential art critic John Ruskin (1819–1900) considered this painting to be one of the 'most perfect poems...which modern times have seen.'

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Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
4 months ago

Thu, I should think nearly everything that Christ said was completely baffling – especially for his apostles hearing these things for the first time. We are so familiar with Our Lord’s words – and can probably quote them – but that doesn’t mean we can get our heads round them!

Charles Marriott
Member
Charles Marriott(@chazbo)
4 months ago

Very moving in an English sort of way as we are often more at ease with animal emotions than human. Has that any resonance with other readers?

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
4 months ago

How true Chazbo. That image cut straight through me!

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