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Lent – a time of prayer and mercy

IV Sunday of Lent

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-21)

This Sunday’s gospel begins with this important reference to the Old Testament, where God’s mercy allows salvation even to those who have repeatedly murmured against Him . By simply looking at the copper serpent placed on the pole by Moses in the desert, as God had commanded him, the Jews were able to avoid death.

Mosè Cesare Ligari pinacoteca ambrosianaCesare Ligari, a painter from Lombardy (1716/1770) who died in poverty, painted an oil on canvas in 1740, now in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan, which depicts this very episode to great narrative effect. As the people tumultuously try to rid themselves of snakes, Moses placed a bronze snake on a high pole, after praying to God for mercy on his people. The broad white cloak and the two rays of light on his head distinguish him, as he waves his staff exhorting repentance. The drama of the moment is, however, softened by a light that from the depths of the sky seems to lighten the landscape, make the colours warm and generate a sense of hope. Jesus recalls the gesture of Moses because he too, like the serpent, will be lifted up on the cross.

Duccio di Buoninsegna commiato di Cristo dagli ApostoliJesus speaks with the apostles, he lives with them, he is always Master because the Church must be born that must be life in the whole world. Christ justifies his coming among men “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…. not to judge, but that the world might be saved through him”. This discourse is later verified when Jesus takes leave of the apostles . In the painting by Duccio di Buoninsegna, a Sienese painter (1255/1319), kept in the cathedral museum in Siena, Jesus speaks to the eleven remaining after Judas’ betrayal. He is serious and determined, but serene; the apostles, on the other hand, show faces with different expressions that hint at their sad state of mind. The bright colours of the robes, the golden haloes, and the room that houses them make the whole look like a precious Gothic miniature. Jesus’ discourse will always be precious and wisely kept in the hearts of the apostles as they gradually try to understand that inexplicable Mercy of God shown by the origins of creation.

-Ghirlandaio,_Domenico cappella Sistina RomaJesus teaches this continually both by his works and by his Word, and of himself he says: “light has come into the world”. The apostles are the depositaries of this wonderful mandate and they listen, trying to learn as best they can what is said to them.  Domenico Ghirlandaio (1448//1494), one of the greatest Florentine Renaissance painters, left one of his masterpieces in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, painting the ‘Calling of the Apostles’ in 1481/82.  In a highly evocative landscape setting, he sets the various moments in which Jesus calls the apostles in one large space in which nature and characters achieve a remarkable compositional balance. The white light coming from the distant hills is reflected in the Lake of Tiberias, while another almost frontal light enhances the bright colours of the robes and the expressive faces of all the characters.  The resulting effect is very captivating for the observer who has the impression of participating in the event and listening to his words. From the call of the first apostles to his farewell, the common thread always remains the great Mercy of God who through his Son provides for mankind, so that it can always look with confidence upon this Father who will never deny his help.Gesù Luce

                                                                              Paola Carmen Salamino


  • Paola Carmen Salamino


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