The Confession,
Painted by Giuseppe Molteni (1800-1867),
Painted in 1838,
Oil on canvas
© Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

The Confession,
Painted by Giuseppe Molteni (1800-1867),
Painted in 1838,
Oil on canvas
© Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan

Gospel of 23 February 2024

Go and be reconciled with your brother first

Matthew 5:20-26

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 theme of our Gospel reading today captures one of the most basic themes of Lent: reconciliation. Jesus asks us not to reconcile ourselves only with our fellow brothers and sisters, but also to reconcile ourselves with God. Etymologically the word ‘reconciliation’ comes from the Latin words ‘re’, meaning ‘again’ and ‘concilare', meaning ‘to make friendly’. It is the act of making two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement. It is easy to see how that works between people. We can all probably think of examples of where people have been reconciled. However, thinking of reconciliation with God is harder to do, as often our lack of humility prevents us from seeing that there is anything broken or ruptured in our relationship with God in the first place.

Only when we start to recognise that our relationship with God needs mending do we grow closer to the heart of God. Did he not reach out to us first by sending his Son in our midst, nailed to the cross for our sake? Of course we also have the Sacrament of Reconciliation to help us. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (§§1423-24) gives various names for this sacrament: the sacrament of Conversion; the sacrament of Penance; the sacrament of Confession; the sacrament of Forgiveness; and the sacrament of Reconciliation. These names encapsulate the graces that we receive through the sacrament.

Our painting by Giuseppe Molteni depicts a well-dressed young woman going to confession. At the time this was painted, critics thought that the lady was a young mother who had yielded to the advances of an admirer. But we don’t know for sure who she is. The artist never revealed who she was. A Catholic art critic at the time, Pietro Estense Selvatico, simply stated that the painting was designed to illustrate the moral beauty of everyday life. However we may read this painting, it is a beautiful depiction of the Sacrament of Reconciliation… there to make us friendly again with God.

Share this Gospel Reading

Did you like this Gospel reading and art reflection?

Join in the discussion about this artwork & Gospel reading

Subscribe
Notify of
19 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
George K
George K
1 month ago

The way I apply this message to my life is by consciously trying to treat everyone, especially myself, with unconditional love. My belief is that God is Love. Whenever I attempt to bring Love into any relationship, I am bringing God into that relationship. I believe an ‘altar’ is any place/time I offer unconditional love. My own personal view of forgiveness is that the only person I can forgive is myself. In reality, no one else has injured me. I have felt injured, but it was only my ego that was injured. I have felt resentful, but only because I had expectations. I have felt angry, but only because someone did not do what I wanted or got something I desired. I guess I’ve lived a life where no one has physically injured me, I am aware some people have been physically injured.

The way this Gospel is written, about when my brother has something against me, I don’t understand. If my brother has an unreasonable expectation of me, why should I do what he expects? What if he is angry with me because I love his enemy? I understand if I have something against my brother, I must make our relationship love-based. I do not know any way I can make my brother love me if he chooses not to love me exactly as I am. The way I think about this is that I am only responsible for my part in our relationship.

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

When I was ill recently, I went to Mass (virtually) to St Mungo’s in Glasgow (don’t ask me why) and the priest said something in his homily that has stayed with me ever since: Forgiveness should be the disposition of my heart.

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago

Disposition to forgiveness – yes – while many of us are disposed in a not such a good direction. At the concert last night I found myself badly disposed to many in the audience. Very poorly dressed, eating and drinking during the performance, clapping at the end of the individual movements of the symphony rather than the end, pushing past to get to the bar, leaving before the soprano received her bouquet (thus missing her encore) etc. Grumpy old man or cavils?

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

Oh Chazbo. You went there to enjoy yourself… only to be surrounded by peasants😐🤣😁

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago

I think because the concert was called ‘Love is in the Air’, which is pretty naff, there were people there, how shall I put it, who weren’t used to the refined atmosphere of the concert hall 🤣
We had won the tickets in a raffle.

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

Oh, that is SO typical, that critics automatically branded her as a fallen woman…she could simply be regretting harsh words with her mother – as I do.

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

Standars of the day Patricia 🙃

Andy Bocanegra
Member
Andy Bocanegra
1 month ago

The lady in the painting can be any of us. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Thank God for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and for the seal of the confessional.

Elvira
Member
Elvira
1 month ago

Good morning.
Today I think about this: Coexistence is not easy and when problems grow, we distance ourselves from people close to us. Good relationship with others is as important to Jesus as it is to God. The followers of Jesus are called to be builders of peace and reconciliation. When is it time to approach the sacrament of confession?
🙏Lord, “where there is hatred, let me put love, where there is offense, let me put forgiveness, where there is discord, let me put union”. Francis of Assisi

Graham B.
Member
Graham B.
1 month ago

I do like the commentary from Father P this morning; not having come across the link between reconciliation and friendly. Yet at the same time with some particular people surely I must be at least a little wary or sceptical or am I then bypassing the unconditional love aspect? I shall have to ponder this further……

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago

A rather public confession-going! The confessional boxes were more discreet when I was a lad. At my Catholic boarding school, when we were young, we had to go to confession once a week, WHETHER WE HAD SINNED OR NOT!! So there were sins invented. I won’t go on as everyone has a story like that of silly religious education. We also learnt the important stuff.

In the 1950s we lived in such a Catholic cultural ghetto that we knew nothing about Protestants. I was surprised when it turned out they were the majority, well on paper.

Early morning ramblings. I went to a Mozart concert last night and very good it was although rather too much from his operas. How many did he compose?

Elvira
Member
Elvira
1 month ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

I find it very interesting to learn about the religious education we have received. I am surprised that we have such different reactions when we receive the same religious education among brothers.
I think Mozart’s operas were many, maybe 20? Where did you hear “The Magic Flute” is magnificent

Elvira
Member
Elvira
1 month ago
Reply to  Elvira

Bad translation, I think. I wanted to say “The Magic Flute ” I really like it. I apologize

Chazbo M
Member
Chazbo M
1 month ago
Reply to  Elvira

We went to the concert hall on the South Bank Elvira – it’s called the Queen Elizabeth Hall. This is one of the reasons I want to remain living in this city to be able to go to such cultural events. My wife wants to go to the country and cultivate a beautiful garden!

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

I’d like to do both! I have the garden but the cultural offers are a bit thin round here. It’s my husband’s birthday today, so we’re having a day out.
I’ve always felt forgiveness is the most distinctive feature of Christianity. Is it the same as reconciliation? I think of a particular family situation, where forgiveness is possible, but reconciliation – as I understand it – a coming together again, a friendliness, is not likely. Is the forgiveness not complete, therefore?

Elizabeth Hampton
Member
Elizabeth Hampton
1 month ago
Reply to  Noelle Clemens

I think, too, of a particular family situation, Noelle, where not even forgiveness seems possible – let alone reconciliation. So much so that I asked the priest hearing my confession at the beginning of Lent how to deal with a seemingly impossible issue. Sadly, it was apparent that he also was devoid of advice so I remain in a quandary as to how to go forward but will continue to seek the Lord’s guidance and try to hate the sin and just dislike the sinner intensely (we were never allowed to use the word ‘hate’ growing up ; this was the nearest approximation my mother would allow!) for what he is doing to the person closest to him…

Noelle Clemens
Member
Noelle Clemens
1 month ago

Hello, Elizabeth. I empathise deeply with your quandary. I don’t think a cry for justice in a situation is ever wrong. The only useful piece of advice I’ve been given is “don’t let that person rent space in your head”. But, it depends so much on the circumstances, doesn’t it? Laying the situation at the Lord’s feet is the only way, praying that the wrongdoer will be turned….. God bless you. 🌺

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien
1 month ago
Reply to  Chazbo M

I agree. You can idealise living in the country when you’re a townie. I wouldn’t move from my London borough for the simple reason of access (free) to culture.

Mike Baird
Member
Mike Baird
1 month ago

Make friendly again with God.

Love it!

Readings related to Matthew 5:20-26

12 June 2019

Matthew 5: 17-19

I have come not to abolish the Laws

27 February 2021

Matthew 5:43-48

Pray for those who persecute you

24 February 2024

Matthew 5:43-48

Pray for those who persecute you

1 November 2023

Matthew 5:1-12a

All Saints

Join our community

In addition to receiving our Daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection, signing up for a free membership allows you to: 

The mission of Christian Art is to offer a daily Gospel Reading paired with a related work of art and a short reflection. Our goal is to help people grow closer to God through the magnificent pairing of art and the Christian faith.

CONNECT WITH US

Join over 70,000 people who receive our daily Gospel Reading and Art Reflection

Skip to content