Painting by Dee Carpenter,
Painted in 2013,
Gouache and watercolour on paper
© Dee Carpenter, Fairbanks, USA
Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees!
Jesus said: ‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to.
‘Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are.
‘Alas for you, blind guides! You who say, “If a man swears by the Temple, it has no force; but if a man swears by the gold of the Temple, he is bound.” Fools and blind! For which is of greater worth, the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred? Or else, “If a man swears by the altar it has no force; but if a man swears by the offering that is on the altar, he is bound.” You blind men! For which is of greater worth, the offering or the altar that makes the offering sacred? Therefore, when a man swears by the altar he is swearing by that and by everything on it. And when a man swears by the Temple he is swearing by that and by the One who dwells in it. And when a man swears by heaven he is swearing by the throne of God and by the One who is seated there.’
Reflection on the gouache
Strong words in our reading today! We hear from Jesus a tirade of words against the Pharisees. Jesus was very critical of those who were an obstacle for people coming to believe in him. Remember, he was even critical of his own disciples for trying to prevent children approaching him. Jesus saw the Pharisees as putting obstacles between him and the people. He wanted them to build bridges instead!
When we talk about our own faith and bear witness to Jesus before others, we must take great care not to become obstacles ourselves. Of course that doesn’t mean that we should shy away from having certain conversations or avoid conveying the Church’s teachings in a spirit of love, but we have to be mindful of how we present things.
Our gouache on paper is entitled ‘Obstacle Course’ and is by award-winning self-taught artist Dee Carpenter. It is a very sweet composition showing little ducklings facing a small obstacle. One brave duckling is facing the obstacle and has nearly managed the steep climb. He will be an example to the rest so they can follow suit. In our faith, we can be the ones gently showing the way and helping others to overcome obstacles… rather than build new obstacles for them.
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