La Cueillette des Pois (The Pea Harvest),
Painted by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903),
Painted in 1887,
Gouache on paper
© Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

La Cueillette des Pois (The Pea Harvest),
Painted by Camille Pissarro (1830-1903),
Painted in 1887,
Gouache on paper
© Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Gospel of 7 December 2019

The harvest is rich but the labourers are few

Matthew 9:35-10:1,5,6-8

Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’

He summoned his twelve disciples, and gave them authority over unclean spirits with power to cast them out and to cure all kinds of diseases and sickness. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: ‘Go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge.’

Reflection on the Gouache on Paper

This painting has an interesting history. In 2017, the High Court of Paris ordered an American art collector based in Florida, to return this painting by Camille Pissarro to the descendants of the Jewish collector, Simon Bauer, from whom it was taken during the Nazi occupation of France. Our gouache on paper painting, La Ceuillette des Pois (Pea Harvest), was seized in Paris under anti-semitic laws during the Vichy regime in 1943. The painting’s journey from the Bauer’s collection in Paris during World War II, right to the courtroom in 2017 is sadly typical of many Jewish families’ complex, generations-spanning battles to reclaim art works seized during World War II.

Whilst a lot can be written on the provenance of such pieces and their recent owner's history, the painting depicts a lovely harvest scene, as mentioned by Christ in today’s Gospel. The sentence I want to concentrate on today is the last one ‘You received without charge, give without charge’. This is one of the fundamental principles of the Christian life. All we have in our life, comes from the grace of God, and He gave it to us freely. I know this may sound very abstract and intangible, but it is very real however. He is the one who gave us our talents to work, our drive to achieve, our ability to love, our quest to provide for family, etc… It is only if we realise that all these have been freely gifted to us by God, first, that we can then use all these gifts to give back... give back to God and our neighbours. Freely we have received, freely we have to give!

Again, these are not just some abstract words. If we are talented to sing, then we can sing for Him; if we are talented to paint, we can paint for Him; if we are academically gifted, then we can teach for Him; or if we are tuned in to the online world, then we can spread God’s word online; if we are talented to write, we can write for Him etc etc… And we have to do all this freely. Every time we do anything for anyone using our God given talents and gifts, we are privileged to participate in the economy of God! A simple economy really where He gives freely and we give back freely… A privilege which is entirely ours… it is priceless…

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