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The Call of Saint Matthew

2016-11-15-chrisOne of my favorite Gospel passages is commonly known as the “Call of Saint Matthew.” Many people call it this for many reasons, but mostly because of the painting done by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio-and the piece is considered a masterpiece. The corresponding passage appears in all three Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The painting is amazing, but if I wish to see the scene portrayed in real life, my favorite portrayal by far is in the movie Son of God. To describe it quickly, the camera begins by showing men collecting coins and tallying amounts. Some people are unable to pay, so they are mocked and ridiculed. Next, the audience sees Jesus and His followers pass by commenting on the sinfulness of these Jewish people working as tax collectors for Rome. In fact, Saint Thomas calls them “Vermin!”. Then, a Pharisee walking with Jesus, tells Jesus He should keep His distance, for those Jews working for Rome as tax collectors are sinners. Matthew hears this interaction, he and those around the table watch Jesus to see His reaction. Jesus then starts telling a story of two men who walk into the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. The Pharisee prayed, thanking God he wasn’t like these other awful men, thieves, adulterers, and tax collectors. Then, as the tax collector prayed, unable to look up to heaven, saying, “God, have mercy on me, I am a sinner! I am a sinner!” Jesus told the crowds, that God blessed the tax collector, and not the Pharisee.

The part I think that touches my heart is as Jesus tells the parable, He looks right at Saint Matthew. Next, the camera switches to Saint Matthew, and he is just sobbing as he mouths the words Jesus is saying to the crowds, “God, have mercy on me, I am a sinner, I am a sinner!” Saint Matthew continues sobbing, probably a little unable to grasp how this Man could know this at first. But accepting Jesus as God, He accepts the Love Jesus gave Him in that moment.

I remember the first time I saw that scene a few years ago. I tend not to cry very much, and I could not stop crying after watching that scene. So much is said in that scene, but such little dialogue all because of wonderful acting. Us, as viewers, we can say that Jesus, with his Divinity, heard and knew Saint Matthew’s prayer, and used Saint Matthew as the example in His story. To this day, the scene is probably one of my favorite movie scenes of all time.

A sinner like Saint Matthew, wanting to cry to the Lord because I cannot stop myself from sinning, I often wonder why God called me to my vocation. I believe it’s because God gives Himself to all people. I am reminded of this often at seminary. I felt this when I recently spent some time at an assisted living center run by the Religious Sisters of the Poor. An elder gentleman spoke with me for some time, and told me about his life. He was from South America, and spent some time teaching at a Catholic seminary in a country wrought by a civil war. I could tell he was holding something back at first, but as I continued to be open to his life and experience, he opened himself up. He let me know that he was a former priest of the Salesian community. It was then I felt a little concerned. I expected cynical and bitter remarks about the Church. I often get these remarks from people who have left the Church for various reasons, whether or not those reasons are just. He was so respectful and joyful! He admitted one mistake led him away from his vocation, but God never places His love at a distance, it is available in a priest, in the sacraments, in the Church, in Creation, and in our family and friends. We must ask Our Lord to help us remain open to this Love, so we can open our heart to this Love! Saint John Vianney pray for us!

Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers

1st Theology
Christopher Myers attends Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University in South Orange, NJ.
Christopher Myers

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