Fr. Roger J. Landry
Diocese of Fall River Television Mass
Bishop Stang High School Chapel, N. Dartmouth, MA
June 9, 2002
Hos 6:3-6; Rom 4:18-25; Mt 9:9-13
One of the great joys of my years in seminary in Rome preparing to be a priest was the fact that there were so many beautiful churches, full of tremendous works of art, that depict the momentous episodes in the life of Jesus and the saints in such a moving and unforgetabble way. And every time I read this Gospel of the Call of St. Matthew, I think of what is without a doubt the most famous artistic depiction ever made of this scene, done by an Italian painter called Caravaggio, which is in one of the Roman Churches at which I used to pray. In it, the focus is on Jesus’s outstretched finger zeroing in on Levi from across the room, calling him from his customs post, calling him from his life of sin, to follow him.
Today, Jesus has each one of us in his divine cross-hairs, and just as poignantly and personally as with St. Matthew, is stretching out his finger to call each one of us in particular from our customary posts, from our sins, from our own comfort zones, to get up and follow him much more closely. This is what the Christian life is all about, to follow St. Matthew’s example by responding to Jesus’ direct invitation, and leave everything behind that keeps us from him, so that the Divine doctor may heal us from the cancer of sinfulness and we might live fully the divine life he died to give us.
St. Matthew wasn’t the only sinner Jesus called to be a great saint and apostle. Peter begged the Lord to depart from him for he was a sinful man, and then proved it when he abandoned the Lord when the Lord arguably needed him most. But the Lord prayed for him that he would convert back and then go out and strengthen his fellow sinners in the faith, which is what he did, with his words, life, example and blood. St. Paul used to kill Christians for living, terrorizing the Christians of the 30s in the same way that ferocious Roman emperors did in later decades, but the Lord, too, brought about his conversion and he poured himself out like a libation trying to bring God’s merciful love and truth to all the world. The Lord likewise is calling us, today, right here in this chapel or right there in your kitchen or living room to a similar conversion from whatever keeps us from him.
But the Lord’s plan is not to stop there, and that’s what today’s Gospel makes plain to us as well. Yes, he is pointing directly at us to draw us toward him. But he hopes that with Matthew, Peter, Paul and Augustine, we might become so united with Him that he can then point us toward others and send us out to take the message of conversion, of the Good News of his merciful love, to all sinners. Jesus, the Divine Doctor, made house calls to crowds of sinners to call them to a change of heart. He sent Peter before the Sanhedrin to do the same. He sent Paul before the Athenian philosophers, Roman governors and countless others, and Matthew throughout the East to do likewise. And he calls us, each one of us sinners, today, to go out after his lost sheep with this same message of conversion.
Their example inspires us today to look around us, around our families and friends, to find the lost sheep in our midst do what we can to try to help bring that sinner to repentance, by our direct interventions and by our sacrifices and prayers. The Lord has called us sinners to him so that he can send us out to others, so that they, too, may perceive Jesus pointing toward them, and like Matthew respond to Jesus’ invitation to leave everything immediately and follow him, following him all the way through the Cross to that eternal kingdom he’s prepared for us since the beginning of the time.