Couple on a Walk,
Painting by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894),
Painted in 1881,
Oil on canvas
© Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany

Couple on a Walk,
Painting by Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894),
Painted in 1881,
Oil on canvas
© Museum Barberini, Potsdam, Germany

Gospel of 1 February 2023

A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations

Mark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Reflection on the Impressionist Painting

Jesus says in today’s reading: ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’. This shows that his rejection was not limited to Jesus’ fellow townspeople of Nazareth. Even his own family and his wider circle of relatives rejected him. I guess they were very sceptical. Yes that word, ‘scepticism’: very prevalent in our 21st century. Scepticism works on the assumption that knowledge or faith requires adequate evidence first. People ‘in his own country’ wanted proof. How could a carpenter’s son be the Son of God?

The people of Nazareth were slow to recognise who Jesus truly was. Jesus was too familiar to them. After all they knew his mother and his family. He was one of their own; he was too ordinary to be the Son of God? He could not possibly be all that ‘different' from everyone else in Nazareth? Today’s scene described in our Gospel reading is a clear case of familiarity breeding contempt. The reading suggests that we can sometimes be slow to recognise the presence of God in the ordinary and the familiar. God is present and recognisable even in the people closest to us.

Christ’s presence is all around us in the near and the familiar. The gospel reading invites us to see the familiar and the ordinary with fresh eyes. Our painting by Gustave Caillebotte depicts a couple on a walk. A simple scene. The two of them know each other well, and our Gospel today prompts us to try and recognise God in the people closest to us. We don’t have to go long distances, or encounter extraordinary events to find God, He is right there where we are and in what we have. He is in the people we love, and in the people we are yet to love.

In the 1860s the seaside resorts in Normandy became one the most popular summer retreats of the Parisian bourgeoisie. Here a young couple (likely the artist and his partner, Charlotte Berthier) are strolling past the luxurious Villa italienne in Trouville. The two fashionably dressed strollers are viewed from the rear, a highly unusual way to depict a couple at the time. When Caillebotte showed the painting in the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1882, it attracted considerable attention for its free painterly style and unusual faceless composition of a couple.

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Maya Hernandez
Member
Maya Hernandez
1 year ago

Out of curiousity, I see that the couple is walking at a distance from each other and are not very close to each other. It could be because of the societal norms from that time period, but I found it strange that they are separated like that. Also, the man seems to lean away from the woman. Can someone please explain to me why the artist made this choice in their work?

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
1 year ago

I love this painting and Caillebotte’s works in general. Staring at this painting gives me the feeling that I am walking the same path right behind the couple enjoying a beautiful day. As far as the Gospel reading is concerned, I can understand how family members can take each other for granted. I am not bothered by the use of the terms brothers and sisters. I have read sufficient explanations on how those terms in the original language could mean relatives or cousins. The fact that Jesus, while on the cross, gave his mother to the disciple John for her care tells me that he had no other siblings to care for Mary. The fact that he was already about 12 years old when he was found in the temple no mention of other siblings was made, it was just Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 year ago

In today’s world, I think it’s wise to be sceptical. However, there is absolutely no need for scepticism with Christ. We KNOW we can trust him👍
More mention of named siblings I notice…not that it bothers me.
Love this painting – which was included in a Caillebotte calendar we had last year. We are going to Trouville (a place I love) for a week in September.

Tina Shaw
Member
Tina Shaw
1 year ago

Love this painting, gives a feeling of a warm summer day , a peacefulness
To remember to see God in the everyday , the everywhere, everyone

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago

A beautiful painting showing a lovely summer’s day with the sun dappling through the trees. The couple must have been glad to be alive! Right now when we look out the window the scene isn’t quite so inviting…
Yesterday when walking my dogs I came across a woman with her hand outstretched filled with bird seed. A robin was fluttering down every so often feeding. It was a beautiful, joyful sight – for the woman and the robin. We need to look at the world and try to see the beauty and joy in it all which is quite evident if we open our eyes. God given….

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

I agree- so sunny and warm, and French! Everyday the light is getting stronger, Chazbo, and every day should bring some wonder, I agree. Last night I turned off the lights in my kitchen and the night sky was so clear and sparkling! It is indeed a world full of wonders right on our doorsteps. Summer is coming!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Spring first hopefully! Unless climate apocalypse overtakes us. Just joking…..!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 year ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

You have what is known as a religious mind. In that you see beyond the everyday matter of fact things. So many people don’t seem to they hide in a scientific/rationalistic world view.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 year ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

It has been a long journey. The Lord has led me here.

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Mark 6:1-6

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29 August 2019

Mark 6:17-29

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