Painting by Claude Monet (1840-1926),
Painted in 1890,
Oil on canvas
Sold Sotheby's New York, 14 May 2019, for $110 million
© Sotheby's New York
The harvest is rich but the labourers are few
The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”
Reflection on the Impressionist Painting
Our Gospel reading today talks about the harvest. A beautiful series of paintings depicting harvesting, are those by Claude Monet and, in particular, his haystacks. The painting we are looking at was sold just over three years ago at Sotheby’s in New York for $110 million, the highest sum ever paid for a work by Monet, and also the record for any Impressionist work of art at the time. It is aesthetically very pleasing, not just because of the use of colour but also because of the thick texture of the paint.
The theme of harvesting is more than mere landscape painting. It shows a basic, essential cyclical human activity where we are dependent on nature and on our hard work to have a good harvest. So no wonder Jesus himself uses the image of harvesting in today's Gospel: we live in dependence on God, but we have to work hard in order to have a good harvest. A good harvest for our souls requires our full cooperation with God.
But before any harvest can take place, we have to sow. But even before the sowing happens, we first need to have the 'willingness' to sow… The result of the harvest is dependent on our willingness to sow. If we are serious about the sowing and the harvesting, then our Gospel today tells us that the kingdom of God will already be very near us…. What a beautiful promise.
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