Charity Relieving Distress,
Painting by Gainsborough Dupont (1754-1797),
Painted in 1784,
Oil on canvas
© Indianapolis Museum of Art, Newfields

 

Charity Relieving Distress,
Painting by Gainsborough Dupont (1754-1797),
Painted in 1784,
Oil on canvas
© Indianapolis Museum of Art, Newfields

 

Gospel of 22 May 2024

Master, we saw a man casting out devils in your name

Mark 9:38-40

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.’

Reflection on the painting

Today’s reading offers us an interesting insight into the minds of the disciples. They have just witnessed an exorcism performed by someone they don’t know. Not only that, but the stranger performed the exorcism in Jesus’ name. There is an air of superiority about the disciples: only they should be allowed to perform such miracles. To rub salt into the wound, earlier in this chapter of Mark (chapter 9) we read how the disciples attempted to cast a demon out of a boy and were unsuccessful. Now a perfect stranger casts out a demon successfully, with authority, and using the name of Jesus. The disciples are annoyed. Their pride was hurt.

In our work places, parish churches or even charitable endeavours, we sometimes fall into that same trap of 'feeling entitled', believing our role or way of doing things is superior to that of others. We do it better (or that is what we think). We dismiss suggestions from those less involved, thinking, "Who are they to tell us?" This attitude blinds us to the humility of recognising everyone's equal importance in Jesus' eyes. Each person, especially in the context of doing charity work, has a significant contribution to make. Valuing these diverse contributions will simply make for better results.

"Charity Relieving Distress" is a painting by Gainsborough Dupont, who was the nephew and pupil of the renowned English painter Thomas Gainsborough. The painting depicts a scene of charity and compassion, with three woman distributing alms to the needy. One of the three is in a more prominent role, actually handing out the food whilst the two are watching on. All three have their roles to play, working together harmoniously to help the needy. The painting composition emphasises the benevolent act of giving, as the poor family is depicted with expressions of gratitude and relief. The painting captures a moment of kindness and generosity... often much more effective when done in a true spirit of humility.

 

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spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago

This is the sort of painting I would walk past in a gallery. It doesn’t draw me in because of its dingy colour palette and dreary subject matter. However I do notice the light centred on the dove and the women below so I may be at fault in my appraisal.
‘Anyone who is not against us is for us.’ I love the inclusiveness of the language here, and I don’t see it as condoning lazy attitudes, just being accepting that whatever people give should have some value and we shouldn’t be in judgement of it.
I also like Fr Patrick’s appreciation of the complexities and frustrations of parish life.
From my own standpoint I made a suggestion months ago about hosting a parish activity. Not that I wanted to take ‘ownership’ but we do have one individual who takes over and makes it all her own. This has happened several times. I am not asking for recognition, but feel that she shouldn’t either. It happens all the time!
I am thinking of ceasing to make suggestions- is this being equally petty? Or is it a sign I should step back from these things? I really don’t know and wouuld appreciate your comments.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Morning SfG. They are everywhere, these ladies! – have met many. How stongly do you feel you should still be part of the decision-making? Others probably observe her, and realise what she’s doing…the more graciously you relinquish the credit, the better? But equally, if you decide the time has come to leave her to it, do so very graciously…. tricky one.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

We have some good events planned for the rest of the year- so yes, I will carry on being part but maybe start and keep future ideas to myself.

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Haha..that’s the trouble with parishes. They’re made up of people – and some of them are really annoying!
Well SfG, if you step back then others will hold sway. I recall at a parish meeting, I felt the same and spoke up with a different point of view. In the following weeks a few people stopped me and told me “You said the most important thing in the whole meeting..”
So I would say, speak up – in love.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago

Thankyou Patricia- whether people accept that things are said in love is another matter! I often find my sense of humour falls flat but maybe I should just keep on going. I do think most people are a bit lazy and don’t mind her taking over. and sometimes I’m one of them!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Believe in your initial appraisal! It’s usually the best and correct one.
Our last PP was quite authoritarian and did without parishioners’ input. That worked quite well actually

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
30 days ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Ours by his own admission is rather lazy. He lets us do pretty much anything as long as he doesn’t have to get involved!

Mark Crain
Member
Mark Crain
1 month ago

When I saw the person riding on the donkey, I immediately thought it was Jesus. Is it just me? “Whoever receives and welcomes one child such as this in My name receives Me.”

The woman sitting in the arch way: is she begging? The young man sitting on the steps also puzzles me. He appears to be hugging something, perhaps a small child in the basket. The dog is eager for scraps from the table.

I am imagining Biblical allegories everywhere in the painting. Thank you Father Patrick.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago

Charity relieving Distress – so impersonal, rather didactic. Not a painting I warm to, the girls by the balustrade seem to be gossiping rather than helping. I’m reminded, too, of the verse that’s been excised from ‘All things bright and beautiful’, viz. ‘The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate…God ordered their estate’. What a get-out clause!
Fr. P has it spot-on with the disciples, and how we defend our own little corners of expertise or power, and then along comes someone with more expertise or power – our nose is soon out of joint if we’re not very careful.
Interesting the last sentence: ‘Anyone who is not against us is for us.’ That seems to leave the door open to a rather lazy approach to belief, don’t bother, as long as you’re not anti the Christian faith.
Maybe I’m taking this too literally….
Friends getting ready to do the northern leg of the Camino de Santiago, from El Ferrol. They’ll arrive by sea and train. We’re praying that the incessant rain will have gone by the time they set off, on foot! ¡Buen Camino!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago

There is a lovely elderly lady in our Mother’s Prayers Group: she often impressed upon us the importance of actually asking “In the name of Jesus.,” in our prayers of petition.
A lovely moment yesterday – due to limited Spanish (don’t ask) my husband bought a packet of cigarettes (instead of cigars) Never mind, he said – I’ll soon find a home for them. Walking along there was a wizened old chap, no teeth, sitting in the doorway of a shop, hoping for coppers.
Bob gave him the packet of cigarettes – well, the man nearly jumped up and kissed him! It was like Christmas 🎁 We both shook his hand, exchanged greetings and went on our way, chastened.
Having read Chazbo’s sermon on anonymity, I’m not sure about this now..

Last edited 1 month ago by Patricia O'Brien
Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago

Yes Patricia but yours was fleeting and anyway I’m generalising. If I’m lying in a gutter starving and someone gives me something to eat I’m not going to question their motives.

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago

The whole exchange sounds warm and mutually enthusiastic!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago

Another comment I have to make about this picture is the difficulty of the ‘Lady Bountiful’ phenomenon. I remember Tony Benn arguing that socialism was the way as then the necessities of life should be administered by a third party with whom the recipient has no personal relationship with, which he said should be the state.

Rich ladies, which this picture illustrates, distributing bread and cash to the poor means that the poor have to be ‘grateful’ and tug their forelocks whenever they see these people round and about. So both in Christianity and socialism, there should not be any gratitude between the giver and recipient of generosity. No power structure.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

I agree with you on this Chazbo. Tony Benn had many faults but he was very wise in other ways. Yesterday I attended a parish meeting- same people as usual. I’m struggling with the use of social media for parish groups, they are to me very exclusive. How do we bring people in who have the best intentions, but aren’t just in it for their own ‘glory.’ It is one of the difficulties of parish life isn’t it? Some people seem to want to keep it small, ‘just us.’ I find it stifling.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

It’s also very naughty SFG. Non mihi, non tibi, sed nobis is the council’s motto round here!

We have a lady who is always rushing to put her name down to read the lesson and I can objectively say that she shouldn’t be doing that as she’s not very good at it!!!! But you can’t say that to people – or maybe the PP could tactfully direct her enthusiasm into other areas!

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

I remember this very subject coming up in our church, and it lead to what became a furious, rather upsetting discussion. Maybe your PP ought to choose the readers, turn and turn about….

Last edited 1 month ago by Noelle Clemens
spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
30 days ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

Or offer training. When I volunteered and asked if there was training I was told just to check the readings were right and then read it! I don’t read now except in an emergency…

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
30 days ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Training was suggested here, but it was deemed to be off-putting and possibly insulting. Offence is so easily taken….

Janey M
Member
Janey M
1 month ago

Oh dear, I’m going to contradict Jesus, my Lord. I’m just a little afraid.

There is, and has been over the centuries, so much done in Jesus’ name that has been so wrong and causes so much suffering. The church itself has knowingly got things wrong. Things today that won’t become obvious until it is observed retrospectively. Individuals deliberately taking on the mantle of Jesus to do harm.

“By your fruits you are known”. When we are desperate even rotten fruit is a welcome gift.

We have just observed Pentecost. It is our duty as Christians to listen carefully to the Spirit and get to know the Word of God for discernment. I know, in my own life experience, I have heard the voice of Satan and followed it believing it to be the voice of God. Paul says somewhere, and I paraphrase, “the angels of darkness mimic the angels of light”.

George K
Member
George K
1 month ago
Reply to  Janey M

Janey, the way I read todays reflection is that what Jesus said applied only to those working miracles; Jesus’ words do not apply to those making war or those concerned with fulfilling their own agendas or desires. It appears to me there is a dove hovering above the women, I guess that signifies the Presence of God/Jesus/Spirit as they fulfill their commitment to love one another. I think it tells us someplace in the New Testament that the way to determine God’s will for us is to ask ourselves if it is love-based. I don’t have time now to look up the source.

Janey M
Member
Janey M
1 month ago
Reply to  George K

I don’t think it is a dove, I wish it was, I think it is part of the flock of town pigeons, it is trying to steal some of the scraps.

To lighten the mood, I am reminded of one hot summer’s day about three/four years ago when I was with my husband, son and his wife and two youngest grandsons in the crown of North Wales seaside resorts. We were having our picnic when I felt a hard brush against my face coming from the back of me. There, to my shock and horror, the mirth of the grown ups and excited hilarity of the boys, was my ham sandwich a couple of yards in front of me being gobbled up by a seagull. It had taken from my hand on route to my mouth.

Last edited 1 month ago by Janey M
George K
Member
George K
1 month ago
Reply to  Janey M

I struggle with myself about if my posts on this site are appropriate. I am not a religious person, nor am I particularly interested in art. I do believe in God Who Is Love; I think that may be all I need to know about God. Most of what I post is about how I try to apply or fail to apply Jesus’ message to my life. Included in that is trying to see what I consider what is ‘good’ in my life instead of focusing on what is ‘bad’ in my life. That is why I see a dove instead of a pigeon. The artist is not portraying a fact, but attempting to show what charity looks like; trying to inspire me to do likewise.

This is part of a daily meditation I get…’I have had those moments, when mundane beauty breaks through my gray, sullen mood, and changes my day from dark to light. One day, I was complaining to a friend about how awful my life was, about how everything was going wrong, and nothing was going right. As I paused, she asked me, “Did anything good happen today?” After a moment, I said, “Well… yes… it was sunny, and the snow on the trees was all sparkly.” Just that small, remembered bit of joy was enough to pull me from my funk and to change my mood for the rest of the day. To my friend, I could only say “Thank you. Thank you so much for reminding me that I can choose to see the dark or to see the light. Thank you”.’

Janey M
Member
Janey M
1 month ago
Reply to  George K

Dear George, for about six years I received Christian Art via email. It was, quite simply a way of reading the Gospel for the day with commentary. There have been very few artworks that have consciously impacted my spiritual growth, but I am sure at an unconscious level they have. Some six months or so I decided to join the forum, some may remember that it took a while for me to level out my expectations.

We all benefit from your experiences of applying the Gospel to your daily life. We all fall short and that can make us feel gloomy. But God delights in our efforts. Jesus cracked jokes through the medium of parables,

At the time I did not find the seagull episode funny, but I do laugh about it now and it has become part of our family folklore “Do you remember when ………” alongside the time I got stuck in an plane toilet and the attendants had to break down the door mid flight – but that is a story for another day!

George K
Member
George K
1 month ago
Reply to  Janey M

This site is about art; poetry is an art form. This is my favorite poem:

Two men in prison,
Locked behind bars.
One saw mud,
The other saw stars.

Janey, I cannot even begin to tell you how happy I am that you see some humour about what happens in your daily life. I think my having a good day depends almost totally on my attitude. When I have a mud-filled view, I have a depressing day. When I have a star-filled view, I have an excellent day. On those excellent days, I am a more compassionate, accepting, understanding, kind and gentle person, to others and to myself. And I believe that is exactly how God desires me to be. It’s about trying, not succeeding.

Janey, have an excellent day today! 😊 P.S. I can’t wait to read about your airplane adventure. 😊😊

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Janey M

Me too Janey- hindsight is a wonderful thing. I sometimes think purgatory will be about confronting those sins of which we weren’t aware in this life, and thought were virtues!

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago

The most impressive giving is anonymous. The right hand gives and the left hand doesn’t know about it. That is said in one Bible passage and I can’t remember the exact one. Nowadays a lot of people expect kudos when giving and do it in a very public was as in those TV shows when celebrities compete for cash for their chosen charity.

I was struck some years ago when I had to undergo major surgery to rearrange the contents of my torso. There were two surgeons and one spent hours inside reinforcing, installing reinforcement and repositioning my organs 🫣. The junior surgeon told me this and I never even met the guy who did all the work. I realised then that the NHS had a lot of Christian morality built into it.

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
1 month ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Yes it does, but also those who aren’t Christian or even believers. The NHS is a true melting pot built on moral values we could say may be enhanced by Christianity but not exclusively so. Hippocrates was a pagan after all.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Quite right. But then I think the whole of western secular culture has a lot of Christianity in it that doesn’t obtain in the East (outside Christendom).

spaceforgrace
Member
spaceforgrace
30 days ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

You don’t have to look East, too many in this country don’t realise their own society is built on the same Christian values they so quickly deride.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
30 days ago
Reply to  spaceforgrace

Quite so….

Guy Van Holsbeke
Member
Guy Van Holsbeke
1 month ago

La réponse de Jézus est ( presque ) toujours une à la quelle nous ne pensons pas ! Une des bonnes raisons à lire la Bible et en prendre profit !

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago

Je suis d’accord, Guy.

Monica Doyle
Member
Monica Doyle
1 month ago

Here, Jesus’ humanity comes to the fore… He hears his disciples..their disgruntled tones and he says “Let ‘em at it”!! I’d probably have been disgusted had I been there… Yet again Jesus calms the storm by his closing words… Very reassuring! I think the little fella to the left of the picture has his eye on one of the benevolent ladies! 🌻

Silvia Moiron
Member
Silvia Moiron
1 month ago
Reply to  Monica Doyle

Ahora veo al amiguito, jajajaaaaaaaaa es cierto jajajaaaaaaaaa

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago
Reply to  Silvia Moiron

Madre mía. De que hablas?

Silvia Moiron
Member
Silvia Moiron
30 days ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Me pareció ver que el amiguito gustaba de esa joven caritativa y generosa, y que comentó Mónica, aquí arriba. 😊❤️

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
30 days ago
Reply to  Silvia Moiron

Ah! Claro!

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