Today is St. Matthew's feast day. I was struck by the remarks of Pope Francis, about how he would often visit the church of San Luigi dei Francesi when he would come to Rome, and meditate on the stupendous painting by Caravaggio of "The Call of St. Matthew" (presumably someone was feeding 200 lire coins into that old box that turned the lights on the painting, because without those lights you can't see a thing in that old side chapel).
Its not surprising that the Pope has a special love for this painting, since it illustrates the event that underlies his episcopal motto Miserando Atque Eligendo: "looking upon him with mercy, He called him." This is how Francisco Jorge Bergoglio sees his own life and vocation. When asked how he would describe himself, he said simply -- without any affectation of self-conscious humility -- "I am a sinner." But the mercy of Jesus has looked upon him; the gaze of Jesus has penetrated his life, called him, changed him, and stirred within him the great desire to witness to the merciful love of Jesus that looks upon each and every person.
This morning, he preached about this gaze of Jesus and its meaning for St. Matthew, for sinners, for each one of us.
It is a look that always lifts us up,
and never leaves us in our place,
never lets us down, never humiliates.
it invites you to get up;
[It is] a look that brings you to grow,
to move forward,
that encourages you, because it loves you.
The gaze makes you feel that He loves you.
And sinners, tax collectors and sinners,
they felt that Jesus had looked on them,
and that gaze of Jesus upon them (I believe)
was like a breath on embers,
and they felt that there was fire in the belly, again,
and that Jesus had lifted them up,
gave them back their dignity.
The gaze of Jesus always makes us worthy,
gives us dignity.
It is a generous look.
"But behold, what a teacher: dining with the dregs of the city!"
But beneath that dirt
there were the embers of desire for God,
the embers of God's image that wanted someone
who could help them be kindled anew.
This is what the gaze of Jesus does.
All of us find ourselves before that gaze,
that marvelous gaze,
and we go forward in life,
in the certainty that He looks upon us.
He too, however, awaits us,
in order to look on us definitively,
and that final gaze of Jesus upon our lives
will be forever, it will be eternal.
I ask all the saints upon whom Jesus has looked,
to prepare us to let ourselves be looked upon in life,
and that they prepare us also
for that final – and first! – gaze of Jesus!