Christ as triumphant Redeemer,
Painted by the circle of Jan Sanders van Hemessen (1500-1566),
Mid 16th century,
Oil on panel
© Sotheby’s New York, 30 January 2019, lot 17
If your brother does something wrong, reprove him
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Obstacles are sure to come, but alas for the one who provides them! It would be better for him to be thrown into the Sea with a millstone put round his neck than that he should lead astray a single one of these little ones. Watch yourselves!
If your brother does something wrong, reprove him and, if he is sorry, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times a day and seven times comes back to you and says, “I am sorry,” you must forgive him.’
The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith.’ The Lord replied, ‘Were your faith the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it would obey you.’
Reflection on the painting
'If your brother does something wrong, reprove him’ Jesus tells us today. This may sound a little harsh at first, but upon deeper reflection it isn’t. There is a big difference between ‘telling someone off’ and ‘reproving them’. Telling someone off comes out of a negative place; it comes out of a place of annoyance or impatience. The ‘reproving’ Jesus mentions comes out of a place of love and generosity. It is done with the intention of genuinely helping the other person: to help him or her to grow, improve, be a better person. It is what parents do with their children, wanting only the very best for them. Whilst receiving praise is flattering and motivating, it rarely helps us grow as a person. Often the criticism we receive, if it comes from a place of genuine love, can truly help us to grow.
Also this word of ‘reproving’ is a beautiful word, as it implies a certain gentleness within it and a kindness of intent. Just like in art REstoring a painting or REpairing an antique piece of furniture, brings back great beauty and radiance to the work of art, so can the REproving we receive from our friends, colleagues, mentors, etc, genuinely help us to bring us (back) in line with what God wants from us and make us shine.
Restoration in the context of art is a vital and often delicate process that aims to preserve, repair, and sometimes even rejuvenate works of art. It doesn't replace the artwork or intrinsically change it. No, it helps to bring it back to its splendour and purpose. The process of restoration involves ethical considerations and decisions. Restorers must carefully balance the desire to return the work to its original condition with the understanding that some alterations may be part of the artwork's history and should be preserved. So must we do when we reprove someone in the spiritual life, never wanting to fundamentally alter the person in front of us, but only to help him or her come back to the purpose God intended.
Our panel, painted by the circle of Jan Sanders van Hemessen, had until very recently been nearly completely over-painted, thus masking the incredibly well preserved original composition lying underneath. A thick layer of varnish made the painting virtually unreadable. Restoration brought it back to its former glory, the way the painting was intended to be seen.
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