Matthew 9: 9-13
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
I have often heard Jesuits preach about Caravaggio’s famous painting, “The Calling of St. Matthew.” Caravaggio depicts a gaunt Jesus pointing at Matthew, who is seated around a table of well-dressed tax collectors at a shady customs post. An oblique ray of light cuts through the darkness just above Jesus’ pointed finger. The light bathes Matthew’s face, which betrays a look of tempered surprise—”surely, not I Lord?” he seems to say. Matthew knows he is not a wholly worthy disciple of Jesus – look at the company he keeps and the life he lives, after all! And yet there is Christ, pointing at him and summoning, “Follow me.”
All followers of Christ are called to renew our commitment to serve under the Banner of the Cross. Let us not fool ourselves—this is no small order. It takes courage and perseverance. In an exhortation from several decades ago, the Jesuit leadership wrote the following inspiring and humbling challenge to the sons of Ignatius:
“What is it to be a Jesuit? It is to know that one is a sinner, yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was: Ignatius, who begged the Blessed Virgin ‘to place him with her Son,’ and who then saw the Father himself ask Jesus, carrying His cross, to take this pilgrim into His company.”
Caravaggio and this exhortation from a general congregation of the Society of Jesus highlight today’s Gospel call to Matthew: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Today, let us rejoice that despite all of our faults, all of our sins, all of our imperfections. Jesus does not call us tomorrow, next week or next year: He calls us today. Take a few minutes today to search out the image of Caravaggio’s “Calling of St. Matthew” on the Internet. Imagine yourself in that scene, seated with Matthew. What is it like to have Christ’s light shine on your own hesitations and worries about His call to discipleship?
—Joseph Simmons, SJ
Lord, it was you who chose me. I really am an irreplaceable part of your great plan. The people I meet, the events of the day, the sequence of my daily conversations, are unique opportunities to give and receive Christ. No one else will live a day just like me. The part I play does matter. Though my self-talk may try to diminish my role, I will refuse to give it play in my mind. Though flawed, I am your beloved, and I will be your disciple day by day.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team