October 2016

Caravaggio: The Calling of St Matthew depicting the moment at which Jesus inspires Matthew to follow Him

Pope Francis told the crowds in St. Peter’s Square  that Jesus not only invites a tax-collector, a public sinner to be his disciple, but also sits at table with him, thus scandalizing the Pharisees. We are told  that Jesus then explains that he has come to call not the righteous but sinners. The Pope goes on to say that the calling of Matthew reminds us that when Christ makes us his disciples, he does not look to our past but to the future. He reminds us that we need but respond to God’s call with a humble and sincere heart. In 1953, on the feast of St Matthew, the young Jorge Bergoglio (Pope Francis), at the age of 17, experienced, in a very special and intimate way, the loving presence of God in his life.  He went to confession and felt his heart touched by the mercy of God. It changed his life.  At that moment, he also felt God’s call to the priesthood and religious life as a Jesuit. In memory of that moment, Francis chose as his episcopal and later papal motto: ‘miserando atque eligendo’ (having mercy and choosing) - originally found in a homily on the calling of Matthew by St Bede: ‘Jesus sees the tax collector, and since He sees by having mercy and by choosing, He says to him, ‘Follow me.’ The young Jorge felt the tender gaze of God’s love and mercy and it changed his life. He goes on to tell us that ‘Jesus’ gaze always lifts us up. It is a look that always lifts us up….never lets us down….It invites us to get up…to move forward.  This gaze makes us feel that He loves us. This gives the courage to follow Him…”and Matthew got up and followed Him’.Over the years, Pope Francis has often contemplated the Caravaggio painting in Rome and has written: ‘That finger of Jesus pointing at Matthew…that’s me.  I feel like him. Like Matthew’ ‘It is his gesture that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me!  No, this money is mine. The grace of God then touchs my life and I find myself responding: ’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.  And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as Pontiff.’  In Latin he said: ‘I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance.’ We may notice some parallels in our own lives.

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