Still Life with Fruit and Bread on a Blue Background,
Painting by Henk Helmantel (born 1945),
Oil on canvas,
Painted in 2013
© Henk Helmantel, all rights reserved

Still Life with Fruit and Bread on a Blue Background,
Painting by Henk Helmantel (born 1945),
Oil on canvas,
Painted in 2013
© Henk Helmantel, all rights reserved

Gospel of 28 February 2020

Why do Your disciples not fast?

Matthew 9:14-15

John's disciples came to Jesus and said, 'Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?' Jesus replied, 'Surely the bridegroom's attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast.'

Reflection on the Painting

Henk Helmantel is a contemporary Dutch painter best known for his classically composed still-life paintings. Reminiscent of 17th century Dutch paintings, he has developed a unique modern palette and sparse compositions. The detailing in his paintings is stunning. Look especially at the reflection in the dark green bottle, where we can even subtly see the painter at work in the distance. Next to the bottle, some random objects... this is what a dresser would look like when fasting: just some bread, water and fruit. No meat, no fish, no lavish meals. Fasting shows self-control and purifies the heart. It is an intimacy we share with Christ, reminding us how He suffered for us first. But contrasting our own practices with those of others and comparing our spiritual lives to others, may lead ultimately to pride… or to despair…

There is a basic issue with the question that John's disciples ask Jesus: 'Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?' What they mean is, 'Why are your disciples not doing what the rest of us are doing?' That is always a dangerous starting point - comparing ourselves to others. To be inspired by others is fine, and to look up to others to improve our own lives again is fine. However, each of us has a unique path to Christ. A unique way of loving Our Lord. A unique spiritual journey. We can't force others along our own paths, nor force ourselves to follow their paths. Each of us is uniquely guided by the Holy Spirit…

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