Monday, September 21, 2015

Feast of St. Matthew: Vocation of Francis, Priest and Pope

Gospel: Matt. 9, 9-18
     As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
 And as Jesus[a] reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples.  And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  But when he heard it, 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, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Context: Tax collectors are the dregs of Jewish society since they are the ones taking money from the people for the occupying Romans. They are associated conceptually and semantically with sinners and prostitutes. (Mt. 9, 10; Lk, 15, 1; Mt. 21, 31). Matthew is one of them. Notice Jesus’ comparison of the Pharisee and the Publican: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, the one a Pharisee and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and began to pray thus within himself: ‘O God, I thank thee that I am not like the rest of men robbers, dishonest, adulterers, or even like this publican. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I possess.’ But the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes to heaven, but kept striking his breast, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went back to his home justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself, shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.’” [1]
Jesus Has Mercy on the Sinner and Calls Him to Follow. Roger Landry wrote: “On Sept. 21, 1953, a 16 year-old boy named Jorge Bergoglio was planning to go out to celebrate with friends  an Argentinean national holiday called Students’ Day, which is always held on the first day of spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Jorge decided to start the holiday by going to pray at his parish church dedicated to St. Joseph.
            “He was likely unaware that, in the Church’s liturgical calendar, Sept. 21 is the feast of St. Matthew, the despised tax collector, who, despite his sins, was nevertheless shockingly summoned by the Lord to become one of his apostles.
            “When Jorge arrived at church, he saw a priest he didn’t recognize but who seemed to radiate holiness. He decided to approach him and asked him to hear his confession. We don’t know what Jorge said to the priest or what the priest said in response. But we do know that t hat confession totally changed not only the teenager’s plans for the day, but for the whole course of his life: “For me, this was an experience of encounter: I found that Someone was waiting for me. Yet I do not know what happened. I can’t remember. I do not know why that particular priest was there, whom I did not know, or why I felt this desire to confess. But the truth is that Someone was waiting for me. He had been waiting for me for some time. After making my confession, I felt something had changed. I was not the same. I had heard some thing like a voice or a call. I was convinced that I should become a priest.”
            Interview with Anthony Spadaro S.J.:

            I ask him point-blank: ‘Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?’ The pope stares at me in silence. I ask him if this is a question that I am allowed to ask.... He nods that it is, and he tells me: “I do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
“The pope continues to reflect and concentrate, as if he did not expect this question, as if he were forced to reflect further. ‘Yes, perhaps I can say that I am a bit astute, that I can adapt to circumstances, but it is also true that I am a bit naïve. Yes, but the best summary, the one that comes more from the inside and I feel most true is this: I am a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon.” And he repeats: “I ​​am one who is looked upon by the Lord. I always felt my motto, Miserando atque Eligendo [By Having Mercy and by Choosing Him], was very true for me.’

“The motto is taken from the Homilies of Bede the Venerable, who writes in his comments on the Gospel story of the calling of Matthew: ‘Jesus saw a publican, and since he looked at him with feelings of love and chose him, he said to him, “Follow me.” The pope adds: ‘I think the Latin gerund miserando is impossible to translate in both Italian and Spanish. I like to translate it with another gerund that does not exist:misericordiando [“mercy-ing”].

“Pope Francis continues his reflection and tells me, in a change of topic that I do not immediately understand: ‘I do not know Rome well. I know a few things. These include the Basilica of St. Mary Major; I always used to go there.’ I laugh and I tell him, ‘We all understood that very well, Holy Father!’ ‘Right, yes”—the pope continues – ‘I know St. Mary Major, St. Peter’s...but when I had to come to Rome, I always stayed in [the neighborhood of] Via della Scrofa. From there I often visited the Church of St. Louis of France, and I went there to contemplate the painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew” by Caravaggio.’ I begin to intuit what the pope wants to tell me.

“‘That finger of Jesus, pointing at Matthew. That’s me. I feel like him. Like Matthew.’ Here the pope becomes determined, as if he had finally found the image he was looking for: ‘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. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff.’ Then 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.’”
Vocation and Mission – for Pope Francis and for Everyone:

The Joy of the Gospel: #273. My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing. All around us we begin to see nurses with soul, teachers with soul, politicians with soul, people who have chosen deep down to be with others and for others. But once we separate our work from our private lives, everything turns grey and we will always be seeking recognition or asserting our needs. We stop being a people.

At the Moment of the Election to the Papacy:

“Fear of the mission… can be ‘a sign from the good spirit.’

‘When we realize we are chosen, we feel that the weight on us is too great, and we experience fear – in some cases, even panic. That is the beginning of the Cross. At the same time, we feel deeply drawn by the Lord who by his very summons seduces us to follow him with a fire burning in our heart.’[2]
            “Ast he world held its bareat h, inside the Pauline Chapel Francis drew himself into stillness. Herae, in the antechamber of his new existence, he took a moment to fueled by a strength nothis own. Eventually the disturbance lifted, and he was flooded with a joy and peace. I wwas filledwith a great light,’ he later recalled. ‘It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long.’
            Only Godour Lord can give consolation to the soul without preceding cause… For it is the Creator’s prerogative to enter the soul and leave her, and to arouse omovements tha draw her entirely into love os his Divine Majesty.
            [The director of Vatican TV described what he saw as the images were fed back to his TV truck]:

            "The Pope is crossing the Sistine Chapel looking down, accompanied by Cardinal Vallini and Cardinal Tauran. He is looking down; he doesn’t greet the cardinals, as if he was carrying an enormous burden. Entering the Pauline Chapel, they had prepared a throne, but does not sit on the throne. He forcefully takes the cardinals to sit on either side of him in the last pew. He prays in silence. At a certain moment, the Pope rises. He turns around, exits into the Sala Regia and at that moment he is a different person. It’s a person who is smiling. It’s as if he had entrusted the burden of this choice as if God had said to him personally, ‘Don’t worry. I’m here with you.’ It’s a person who is no longer downcast. His face is no longer tilted downward. It’s a man who looks and asks himself what he needs to do.
            “To many people Francis has since confirmed this account, telling one cardinal that he felt ‘a great sense of inner peace and freedom come over me, which has never left me.’ To another he said: ‘I believe the Holy Spirit had changed me.’”[3]

[1] Lk. 18, 10.
[2] In Aleljandro Bermudez, Pope Francis: Our Brother, Our Friend” Ignatius  [2013].
[3] Austen Ivereigh, “The Great Reformer” Henry Holt (2014) 364-365.

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