Today's Gospel in Art - To be forgiven, you must forgive

  • Patrick van der Vorst

Forgiveness #2, by Muga Putra 2015, Oil on canvas © Muga Putra

Forgiveness #2, by Muga Putra 2015, Oil on canvas © Muga Putra

Gospel of 13th September 2020 - Matthew 18:21-35

Peter went up to Jesus and said, 'Lord, how often must I forgive my brother if he wrongs me? As often as seven times?' Jesus answered, 'Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.

'And so the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants. When the reckoning began, they brought him a man who owed ten thousand talents; but he had no means of paying, so his master gave orders that he should be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, to meet the debt. At this, the servant threw himself down at his master's feet. "Give me time" he said "and I will pay the whole sum." And the servant's master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. Now as this servant went out, he happened to meet a fellow servant who owed him one hundred denarii; and he seized him by the throat and began to throttle him. "Pay what you owe me" he said. His fellow servant fell at his feet and implored him, saying, "Give me time and I will pay you." But the other would not agree; on the contrary, he had him thrown into prison till he should pay the debt. His fellow servants were deeply distressed when they saw what had happened, and they went to their master and reported the whole affair to him. Then the master sent for him. "You wicked servant," he said "I cancelled all that debt of yours when you appealed to me. Were you not bound, then, to have pity on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?" And in his anger the master handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt. And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.'

Reflection on the Painting

Bali-born Mangu Putra, the artist of our painting, said about this work: 'physical power is defeated by wisdom'. Our painting is inspired by an iconic image, originally popularised by Indonesia's founding father, President Sukarno, who was photographed bowing to his mother. The original photo implied that the state symbolically begs the pardon not only of a mother, but of a citizen, instead of the power dynamic in which citizens bow before the state. Putra's painting shows a state soldier bowing and begging forgiveness of his mother, who has taken away his gun. She is only wearing the one slipper; her expression is one of amazement, surprise, annoyance…?

Today's reading is all about forgiveness and patience with one another. Forgiveness is one of the virtues we most enjoy… but it is also the one we probably least employ! We all love, want and even expect to be forgiven, but we often find it much harder to forgive someone. So the parable in today's Gospel reading is holding up a mirror in front of us. We are like the servants in our reading who have been forgiven countless times and for huge amounts of money… and God is the great king who has forgiven us. So if God has forgiven us, and continues to forgive us, we should be able to forgive as well… The point of the parable is even stronger… we must forgive because anything less would hypocritical.


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Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Forgiveness, Mangu Putra

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