The Bookworm,
Painted by Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885),
Painted circa 1850,
Oil on canvas
© Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

The Bookworm,
Painted by Carl Spitzweg (1808-1885),
Painted circa 1850,
Oil on canvas
© Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

Gospel of 30 July 2021

The people in the synagogue asked Jesus questions

Matthew 13:54-58

Coming to his home town, Jesus taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, 'Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter's son, surely? Is not his mother the woman called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? His sisters, too, are they not all here with us? So where did the man get it all?' And they would not accept him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is only despised in his own country and in his own house', and he did not work many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Reflection on the Painting

We have a short Gospel reading today, and yet five questions are asked, one after the other. Asking questions is an important way to grow in our faith. Our faith is surrounded by mystery, so we will never run out of questions to ask. As we try to grow closer and closer to God, we will have questions every step of the way. Having lots of questions about faith is healthy and can make our faith stronger.

…a bit like the man in our painting. Titled 'The Bookworm', the man we see, is consulting book after book, avid and hungry for knowledge and answers to all the questions that pop up in his head. The title of the work is slightly derisive. Calling someone a bookworm can be sarcastic, as to describe someone who is bookish but maybe somewhat unrealistic in day-to-day life. Note how the man stands at the top of a ladder without any handrails, a precarious, dangerous position. He is reading a book with one hand, with another book open in his right hand, a third under his arm, and a fourth one between his knees. A ray of sunlight is beaming through where the man is reading. He is enlightened, literally! In the top left corner, we can see the title section of that part of the library: Metaphysics...

The man depicted in our painting by Carl Spitzweg (a German Romanticist painter), is seeking answers to all the questions he has, consulting books in the library. However, in today's Gospel, the questions that were being asked to Jesus were not meant to find the actual answers or to bring the questioners closer to God. No, the questions asked were to challenge Jesus, to trick Him... and the questioners would reject any answers already before any answers were given. They questioned Jesus... but already rejecting Him in their hearts.

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