Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today's Gospel, Jesus comes to the people like the spring rain, [I mean], the affects are different for different people: some people run for cover, but for others it is a moment of great joy. For one in particular, it was the most beautiful moment of his life. A man named Matthew had dedicated his life to collecting taxes. It was a dirty business. Probably he got his job by selling himself out to a foreign power. He ate well, but probably did not enjoy his meals. The betrayal of his countrymen meant that he always had to watch his back. He seemed trapped, but then one day a man said to him: Follow me. For Matthew, Jesus' call was like a burst of spring rain. It washed his soul and gave him the hope[1].

This year we are reading the Gospel of St. Matthew, and he himself knew very well the meaning of the words, it is mercy I desire.

Mercy – or love- is not some sentimental emotion. Mercy is a gift that transforms a person's life, and Matthew receives a lot. He must have meditated on the verse from the Prophet Hosea, which we heard in the fist reading: It is love that I desire, not sacrifice, and knowledge of God rather than holocausts. The lesson it’s very easy to understand: We cannot say that we love God unless we desire to know him.

St. Matthew is an example for us. He recognized that Jesus called him not because of his outstanding resume. On the contrary, he was the last person you would expect Jesus to call. Jesus did not approach him like a professional person, but like a physician noticing a particularly desperate case. If your soul is overwhelmed by some humiliating condition that just won't go away, if you feel yourself exhausted and weary, St Matthew tells us what to do: Turn your disadvantage into an advantage: Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do.

To need Jesus –and to know that we need him- is a tremendous grace.
St. Augustine wrote a beautiful prayer that could be useful for our spirituality and our personal conversation with our Lord:

«Lord Jesus, our Savior, let us now come to you: Our hearts are cold; Lord, warm them with your selfless love. Our hearts are sinful; cleanse them with your precious blood. Our hearts are weak; strengthen them with your joyous Spirit. Our hearts are empty; fill them with your divine presence. Lord Jesus, our hearts are yours; possess them always and only for yourself [2]

[1] Sunday 8th June, 2008, 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Readings: Hosea 6:3-6. To the upright I will show the saving power of God— Ps 49(50):1, 8, 12-15. Romans 4:18-25. Matthew 9:9-13.

[2] Saint Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430), Bishop of Hippo, in Algeria, was a philosopher and theologian. Augustine, a Latin Father and Doctor of the Church, is one of the most important figures in the development of Western Christianity. Augustine was radically influenced by Platonic doctrines. He framed the concepts of original sin and just war. When the Roman Empire in the West was starting to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Church as a spiritual City of God, distinct from the material City of Man. His thought profoundly influenced the medieval worldview.Augustine was born in the city of Tagaste, the present day Souk Ahras, Algeria, to a Christian mother, Saint Monica. He was educated in North Africa and resisted his mother's pleas to become Christian. Living as a pagan intellectual, he took a concubine and became a Manichean. Later he converted to Christianity, became a bishop, and opposed heresies, such as the belief that people can have the ability to choose to be good to such a degree as to merit salvation without divine aid (Pelagianism). His works—including The Confessions, which is often called the first Western autobiography—are still read around the world. In addition he believed in Papal supremacy.

Ilustration: Caravaggio, St. Matthew and the Angel (1602), Oil on canvas, 232 x 183 cm, Formerly Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, Berlin.

The picture shows the first version of the St Matthew and the Angel, executed for the Contarelli Chapel in the San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome. This painting was rejected, and the artist made another one which still stands over the altar today. The first version of the St Matthew and the Angel was purchased by Marchese Vincenzo Giustiniani and then ended up in Berlin, where it was destroyed in the Second World War; no color reproduction exists. The slow-witted figure of St Matthew, who is naked below below his knees and elbows, and dressed in an ordinary cowl, acquires no real dignity even though the mantle laid over his folding-chair. With his eyes wide open, and with heavy hands, he peers into the thick volumes on his knee. It is not easy to believe he can write. His angel has the greatest difficulty in leading his untrained hand to put the word of God into letters, which are far too big. In doing so, the angel inclines his charming figure, whose shape can clearly be seen beneath his light garment. And so can his androgynous face and long locks of hair, in contrast to the rough bald skull of St Matthew. Against the almost black background, which has been trimmed on the left and at the top, we see the exquisite white of his enormous wings.

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris