Calling Us Through Mercy, Feast of St. Matthew, September 21, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle
60th Anniversary of the Vocational Call of Pope Francis
September 21, 2013
Eph 4:1-7.11-13, Ps 19, Mt 9:9-13

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click here: 


The following points were attempted in this homily:

  • “I desire mercy,” Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel, recounting the call of St. Matthew on the feast day of the tax collector turned disciple-collector. It’s one of the greatest illustrations of all of God’s desire to share his mercy, turning a despised public sinner into a walking advertisement of how great the Lord’s forgiveness really is. St. Matthew immediately began to bring others to receive that same gift from Jesus.
  • To receive this gift and share that desire, however, we need to recognize that we are sick in need of God’s medicinal mercy. We don’t understand the basics of the Christian faith unless we recognize that we and others are sinners in need of a Savior and that that Savior has come as a Lamb of God to be slain to give us that medicine.
  • Jesus came to call sinners and our whole vocation is caught up with our opening ourselves to receive his mercy. Our call and the cure for our sinfulness and coextensive.
  • This was made plain 60 years ago today in the call of Jorge Bergoglio to be a priest while he was going to confession. He entered just to confess; he left knowing that the Lord was calling him to be a priest. I wrote in yesterday’s Anchor article, “It was September 21, 1953 and a teenage Jorge Bergoglio was planning to spend the day with friends. Before meeting with them at the train station, he stopped by to pray at his parish Church dedicated to St. Joseph. A priest he had never seen before was in the Church. He decided to approach him and asked him to hear his confession. We don’t know what Jorge said to the priest or how the priest replied. But we do know that that confession totally changed not only the teenager’s plans for the day but for the whole course of his life. On May 18, the Vigil of Pentecost, Pope Francis shared some of his memories of this pivotal event in his vocation story. ‘One day in particular was very important to me: September 21, 1953. I was almost 17. It was ‘Students’ Day,’ for us the first day of spring — for you the first day of autumn. Before going to the celebration I passed through the parish I normally attended. I found a priest whom I did not know and I felt the need to go to confession. 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 something like a voice, or a call. I was convinced that I should become a priest.'”
  • He was called to be a priest so that he could continue that mission, just as much as St. Matthew did. His papal motto, taken from the Office of Readings every priest reads on September 21 for the Feast of St. Matthew, relives the encounter that took place in the Buenos Aires confessional. “Miserando atque Eligendo,” St. Bede’s words about the former tax collector that can also fittingly be said about the one-time Argentine chemist: “He saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him.”
  • He continues to carry in his breviary a lengthy personal testimony of faith he wrote before his priestly ordination, in which he affirmed, “I believe in my history, which was pierced by the God’s look of love and, on the first day of spring, September 21, he came to meet me and invited me to follow him.” Jorge Bergoglio has been following in those footsteps now for sixty years. And now we’re on pilgrimage with him — and with St. Matthew and with the Church until the end of time.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1
EPH 4:1-7, 11-13

Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit
through the bond of peace:
one Body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.But grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets,
others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers,
to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry,
for building up the Body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of faith
and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,
to the extent of the full stature of Christ.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 19:2-3, 4-5

R. (5) Their message goes out through all the earth.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day pours out the word to day,
and night to night imparts knowledge.
R. Their message goes out through all the earth.
Not a word nor a discourse
whose voice is not heard;
Through all the earth their voice resounds,
and to the ends of the world, their message.
R. Their message goes out through all the earth.

MT 9:9-13

As Jesus passed by,
he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post.
He said to him, “Follow me.”
And he got up and followed him.
While he was at table in his house,
many tax collectors and sinners came
and sat with Jesus and his disciples.
The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples,
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
He heard this and said,
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.
Go and learn the meaning of the words,
I desire mercy, not sacrifice.
I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”