Today's Gospel in Art - Anyone who welcomes a little child in my name welcomes me

  • Patrick van der Vorst

Girl with a Watering Can,  by Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1876 © National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Girl with a Watering Can, by Pierre-Auguste Renoir 1876 © National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Gospel of 11th August 2020 - Matthew 18:1-5,10,12-14

The disciples came to Jesus and said, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, 'I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

'Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.

'See that you never despise any of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven.

'Tell me. Suppose a man has a hundred sheep and one of them strays; will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the stray? I tell you solemnly, if he finds it, it gives him more joy than do the ninety-nine that did not stray at all. Similarly, it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.'

Reflection on the Painting

Our painting today is a perfect example of the mature impressionist style of painting in the 1870's. Whilst impressionist landscapes are usually painted with a certain haste and 'in the moment', portraits such as the little girl here have more detail to them and more control. The vibrancy of colours are typical of Renoir and reflect the freshness and radiance of the impressionist palette. While his handling is more controlled and regular than in his landscapes, the more even, controlled brushstrokes in our painting give it a very rich texture. We don't know who the girl is. Probably just a neighbourhood girl that Renoir liked the look of for one of his paintings: the curly blonde hair, the sparkly blue eyes, the red ribbon, the plump pink cheeks, and smiling red lips all make this a very charming, lively painting.

It is probably the overall innocence of this painting which speaks to us. It is this same innocence that Jesus is talking about in today's reading. He tells us about the great value the soul of a little child has in the eyes of God. Children are born innocent. All children want is to be loved, protected, looked after, taught… The parent, God, is always watchful over us and wants to guide us through life…. if we let Him to...


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Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Renoir

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