The Offering of the Jews,
Painted by the Master of the Gathering of the Manna,
Painted circa 1460-1470
Oil on panel
© Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Before you leave your offering at the altar, go and be reconciled first
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.
‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire. So then, if you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny.’
Reflection on the painting
The Ten Commandments given in the Old Testament tell about things we should do and things we should not do. Jesus quotes one of them in today’s Gospel reading: “You shall not kill”. But Jesus wants to go much deeper. He wants us to change our actual attitudes. It is not good enough just to stick to a ‘You shall not kill’ attitude. What is expected of us is much more: a kind and generous heart. Therefore Jesus tells his Jewish contemporaries that if any of them want to bring an offering to the altar in the temple, they should first try to reconcile themselves with any sister or brother they have fallen out with and only then should they present their offering in the temple.
Jesus is telling us that, whilst of course it is important to go to the temple, a lot of work must be done outside the temple. That is where the main work lies: being kind to the people who surround us as well as forgiving and asking to be forgiven. We have to make the first move towards them and only then go to the temple. Of course Jesus isn't telling us that we have to be perfect before we enter the temple or church, but he doesn't want us to get into a mindset that the temple is the only place where we lead our Christian lives. What we do outside church is as important as what we do inside church.
Our painting depicts an offering being made by some Jewish people in the temple, by the Master of the Gathering of the Manna, whose real name we don't know. He is named after a painting at the Musée de la Chartreuse in Douai which depicts the gathering of manna. In our painting we see some Jewish people, with typical headdresses, gathering wood to be burnt on the altar, preparing for the offerings. Above the altar is a red monochrome relief painting of Cain killing Abel.
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Readings related to Matthew 5:20-26
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