Parable of the Lost Silver Coin Godefridus Schalcken 1643 - 1706 Reflection on the Artwork
Godefridus Schalcken was a Dutch genre and portrait painter. He was noted for his mastery in reproducing the effect of candlelight, and painted in the exquisite and highly polished manner of the Dutch Golden Age painters (Leiden fijnschilders) who, from about 1630 to 1710, strove to create as natural a reproduction of reality as possible in their meticulously executed, often small-scale works. Around 1680–85 Schalcken painted Parable of the Lost Piece of Silver, in which he adhered closely to the text of Luke 15:8–10. The Parable is always interpreted as the joy of repentance, with the lamp symbolizing the Word of God. This interpretation applies in every way to Schalcken’s portrayal, but it is also evident that the master deliberately sought a text in Holy Scripture that would allow him to put his exceptional technique to good use. By following the biblical text closely, Schalcken created an extraordinary composition, for the rejoicing on the part of the friends and neighbours upon learning of the recovery of the piece of silver is the focal point of the picture. The man at the far left, the top half of whose face is concealed in shadow looks at the viewer. He resembles the painter, who was approximately 40 at the time. Presumably, the painter used himself as the model for this character. Perhaps he did so because of some connection he felt with this biblical passage, but he may well have done it to highlight his own accomplishment: the creation of a thematically unique painting. However, it is highly questionable whether the other figures should be seen as portraits of family members.
Lectio Luke 15: 1-10 1“Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, ‘This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them’. 3 So he told them this parable: 4 ‘Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost’.
7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance’. 8 “Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbours, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost’. 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of
the angels of God over one sinner who repents’”.
Context In contrast with Chapter Fourteen, which shows how Jesus takes the initiative confronting the Pharisees and Lawyers, Chapter Fifteen begins with Pharisees and Scribes grumbling about the style of life of Jesus and his closeness to sinners. The lesson about the Cost of Discipleship, that was the main theme in the previous Chapter is now complemented by the Parables in this Chapter that describe how Jesus mirrors the God of mercies, and manifests the mercies of God. Instead of giving a sentence of condemnation Jesus, in contrast with the desire and expectations of Pharisees, Lawyers and Scribes, brings forth God’s justice with mercy and compassion. The demands of Discipleship, described in the previous Chapter through his teaching and Parables, aimed at showing the ideal Disciple, set free from the cares and worries of this world. However, the account of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus will show that the failure of the Disciples to accept the Cross, will meet with the Mercy of God. Being humbled by the experience of the Cross, Jesus’ Disciples joined the lot of sinners. No one can do anything without the Power of the Holy Spirit, made manifest on the day of Pentecost. One exception to this is Mary, the Mother of Jesus who did not fall short in her journey of Discipleship. She was filled with the Holy Spirit from (her Conception according to the Tradition of the Church) the Annunciation of the Angel who described her as the “Full of Grace”. That is why Chapter Fifteen of the Gospel of Luke has been called The Gospel within the Gospel, for the clear description of the mercy of God that breaks through all human prejudices. It shows how God acts with mercy towards sinners. In this particular section, the complaint made to Jesus of eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, is not done in the context of a meal. We notice that the word “all” is very typical of the Gospel of Luke. The Attitude of the Disciple According to Luke, the reason why the crowds follow Jesus is in order to “listen to him”. This signifies an openness to the universal Salvation Jesus came to offer. However, the setting is marked by a rather tense confrontation by Pharisees and Scribes who also approach Jesus, but not as tax collectors and sinners to listen to him, but to confront and complain. A New Paradigm Think of the revolutionary shift of understanding this was. According to the understanding of the established religion, God is just and rules with justice. Justice is exercised when the sinners receive punishment for their sins and the just reward for their goodness. According to this worldview, joy in heaven will be when the sinner receives the condemnation s/he deserves. However, Jesus highlights the joy of finding the lost one and assures us that God is eager to find, to forgive and to save. Conversion is a prerequisite for finding joy and happiness and it consists in a willingness to share in God’s own joy in dispensing salvation. Therefore, the turning point is conversion and change of life, a possibility open to all, because Jesus offers it to all. The Christian faithful therefore experiences joy when a non-believer meets God’s mercy, for when this happens, the Church exalts with divine happiness. The Parable and its Fulfilment Jesus is the eternal soul searcher. He went to the Cross looking for the lost. He found him hanging by his side. There and then, the prophesy contained in these Parables was fulfilled: The repentant thief, like a lost coin or like a lost sheep, at the last hour of his life received the promise of Paradise from the lips of the Crucified Lord. Universal call to Holiness The Biblical Scholar, Eugene Maly remarks: “The Gospel presents three parables: the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son … The interesting point about the first two parables is that there is no hint of sin, of deliberate separation: The sheep simply strays; the coin is lost. Both are recovered. From the conjunction of these two Parables with that of the Prodigal Son, and of this reading with the first two, we have to conclude that the Church wants ultimately to proclaim salvation. Sin is real and cannot be denied. It is why there is salvation. But found, returned, forgiven, reconciled – this is the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ”. God’s mercy is as generous as a shepherd who abandons ninety-nine sheep to save one; or as a woman who turns her house upside down to recover a paltry sum. The theme of salvation goes hand in hand with the joy that a follower of Jesus experiences when s/he has a taste of the mercy of God. The theoretical question “Is there any one outside the Grace of God?” Finds answer in these Parables to show how God’s mercy is available to everybody. Indeed, the Parables of Mercy reveal that God’s love is wider and deeper than anyone could ever imagine. Our Missionary Call Jesus challenges us to share in the task of finding the lost sheep, and the lost coin. We are faced with the urgency of this call to share in the joy of heaven for one person who comes to know God’s love. It is our Baptismal vocation to go and look for the lost one.
“O Father, You are loving and forgiving.
You sent your Son Jesus to seek the lost sheep.
Christ came into the world to save sinners.
When his body was raised on the Cross, He found the lost sheep.
He placed it on his own shoulders by his Passion.
Then in the intense joy of the Resurrection,
He brought it to his heavenly home.
Gracious Father, You have treated us mercifully.
In Christ your Son, You have saved us.
With the community of the redeemed, we cry out with festive joy:
‘To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God,
honour and glory, forever and ever. Amen”.
“There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents …” (Lk 15:7)
· Do we thank the Lord God for his gift of forgiveness incarnated in the person of Jesus Christ, who fully identified himself with sinners by his Passion and life-giving Death on the Cross?
· Do we try to imitate God in his basic stance of forgiving love?
· Do we try to imitate Jesus in his ministry of seeking the lost?
· Are we capable of joining in the feast of the Kingdom and in celebrating the return of a sinner to the bosom of God?
 Luke 14: 1: “Jesus asked the lawyers and Pharisees, ‘Is it lawful to cure people on the sabbath, or not?’” Psalm 86: 5: “You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on You”. Luke 14: 33: “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions”.