(Prayer offered on the Public Address System on Monday morning, 30 September)
Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God.
Two weeks ago, as many of you know, Pope Francis gave an extensive interview to an Italian magazine. During the interview he talked about how, as a young priest, whenever he visited Rome, he would always avoid the bigger touristy churches and instead visit the lesser known Church of St. Louis of France. Within that church building there are three murals depicting the life of St. Matthew painted by the famous artist Caravaggio. The painting is based on a scene from the 9th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.” That’s it. Easy-peasy-one-two-threesy. Matthew just ups and leaves, according to the evangelist. But Caravaggio paints a different, more complex story.
Look at the painting. Jesus and St. Peter are on the right, with Jesus pointing his finger at Matthew, reminiscent of God and Adam in Michelangelo’s painting of creation on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Seated at the table are 5 men of various ages. The two on the left are too busy counting their money to even notice Jesus. The two on the right are young boys, possibly apprentices of some sort. And in the middle is the man who most scholars believe is St. Matthew, pointing at himself with a stunned look on his face, a mixture of fear and uncertainty, as if he’s thinking: “Me? Are you sure you have the right guy? You want me to do what?”
The following is an excerpt from the interview: “That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew,” Francis said. “It is the gesture of Matthew that strikes me: he holds on to his money as if to say, ‘No, not me! No, this money is mine.’ Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze.”
I love it! Now, I would have expected a man who became pope to identify with St. Peter, the confident man standing with Christ. But no. He feels like Matthew. Pope Francis experiences doubt and uncertainty just like us! The great part about this painting is that it invites us, like Francis, to put ourselves in Matthew’s position. Because we are all being called by God for something. And like Matthew, we’re all hesitant to follow. Maybe we’re scared of losing something. We fear the sacrifices or the possible loss of comfort. Or we’re scared of the uncertainty of going where Jesus goes. So we try to hide. Or hold on tight to our possessions. Me? You want me? It can’t be. I’m too small. I’m too young. I’m too settled. I’m not good enough. But God calls us still. Don’t be afraid, he says. And he calls us by name. Shioban, follow me. David, follow me. Daniel, follow me. Anthony, Matt, Jada, Megan, follow me. Don’t be afraid, Molly, Joshua, and Dmitri. Follow me. Nick and Ashley, follow me. Eric and Steve, follow me. I need you. The world needs you. Ellen and Alexa, follow me. James and Amanda, follow me. Stephanie and Jonathan, follow me. Alicia and Jeremy, follow me. How will we respond?
Finishing up his reflection on the painting, the pope whispers in Latin: “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.”
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, give us courage to listen closely for your soft, still voice fighting through the noise around us. And when we meet, please give us the courage to follow you.
St. John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts…forever,
Matthew Daly (Director of Campus Ministry)