Why are you called?

Today is the Feast of St. Matthew the Apostle, the author of the Gospel of Matthew. He is identified as a tax collector for the Roman authorities (Mt 9:9 and 10:3) In similar passages both Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus’ calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus, but Mark and Luke never explicitly equate this Levi with the Matthew named as one of the twelve. However, that is well established in Tradition.

As a tax collector, his fellow Jews would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force. The Pharisees lumped them with “sinners” (Mt 9:11-13). If Jesus had used a Public Relations firm to help him select the 12, I am pretty sure Matthew would have been judged to have too many “negatives” in public perception and would thus be a liability “to the team and mission.”

But then again, Jesus’ mission was to call sinners to redemption and to the renewed covenant with God.

Why did Jesus call Matthew, the tax collector? I don’t think it was for someone to keep accounting records and make sure the taxes were paid. What was Matthew’s contribution to the nascent Christian community? At the beginning, it was hard-to-impossible to say. At the end, under the gift of the Spirit, he produced the inspired Gospel of Matthew, plus took the gospel out into the world on mission.

Why did God call me? Trust me, lots of people who knew me back in the day would have been surprised. But after all these years of mission and ministry, one hopes the Good has come from it.

This is what I do know: “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.” (Eph 7,11-12)

You are equipped for the work of ministry…. Are you doing it?  Just asking….

Image credit: Call of St. Matthew by Caravaggio, Public Domain, San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome

Are you Jesus?

jesus-and-child“Are you Jesus?” It is a question I get asked on occasion, most often because of the Franciscan habit that I wear. Lots of times the question comes from small children. Their picture books show Jesus in his robes and then they see me. I suspect the question is more about my Franciscan robes. Maybe on my good days it is about me. Maybe, just maybe there was a moment when I was Jesus for them.

The question is also asked at the hospital. Much of the time when we are called out in the middle of the night for “last rites” the patient is intubated and not conscious. But sometimes the patient is still with us. You can imagine the scene: The person, knowing death is near, has turned their thoughts to life after death. I enter the darkened room with the light shining from behind me, interrupting their silent prayer and thought; what they see is the outline of the One to whom they have been praying. “Are you Jesus?” In that moment, in the name of the Church, perhaps I am – or at least the presence of Christ as I bring the community’s final prayer and viaticum – the Holy Eucharist for the final journey home. Continue reading