Sep 20, 2022


It’s the feast day of St. Matthew on Wednesday (21 September)

Caravaggio‘s Calling of Matthew and Pope Francis’ frequent comments about the painting provide a great inspiration. Francis has said that this painting in the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, is one of his favourite works of art.

While crowds flock to see the painting the chapel is a place of prayer. People are captivated by the work, and it is difficult to remain a spectator in the presence of the painting which demands a participation. The viewer quickly becomes the one called in the heart of the action.

In the words of Pope Francis:

:Speaking about the encounter with Christ brings to mind “The calling of St Matthew”, the Caravaggio in the Church of St Louis of the French, which I used to spend much time in front of every time I came to Rome. None of them who were there, including Matthew, greedy for money, could believe the message in that finger pointing at him, the message in those eyes that looked at him with mercy and chose him for the sequela. He felt this astonishment of the encounter. The encounter with Christ who comes and invites us is like this.:

Pope Francis has also recalled a key moment in his own relationship with Christ: 21 September (Feast of Matthew) in 1953 when as a young man of 17 he experienced the mercy and the call of Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Forty years later when Jorge Bergoglio was ordained bishop he chose as his episcopal motto a phrase from the Office of Readings for the feast of St. Matthew “to be shown mercy and chosen.”

This theme follows easily from yesterday’s consideration of the good and evil within every person. The saint is one who at least suspects that they have been chosen by God, and who knows their unworthiness and their need for God’s mercy.

I like that in Caravaggio’s work Matthew does not seem to be sure if Jesus is pointing to him. “Who? Me?” he seems to ask. And we know that Jesus persists: “Yes! You Matthew!”

We often hear that God calls us with a general call that all people receive. But today’s gospel focus on the particular calling of the tax collector Matthew reminding me that Jesus is speaking directly to me and pointing me out in the crowd:” John! Follow me!” I sometimes answer yes. Sometimes no. Sometimes I give a “maybe” or “later”. But I know I am happiest when I say yes and follow.

Take a moment to imagine Jesus pointing you out in the crowd, speaking to you and using your name, and calling you by name to follow. How do you respond in this moment?



  1. I was reminded today that following is a physical thing.. it requires movement, getting up from my place of prayer and Going Out. This beautiful picture certainly challenges me to do this , you .. yes YOU!
    Thank you Father John for this reflection.
    Happy feast day to all the Matthew’s, saints and those on the journey.

  2. Amen beautiful reflection Father John really appreciate your explanation Amen

  3. the characters in the painting to me show very human reactions, like hoping its “not me” whose being called out, or better still “don’t you mean the guy next to me” . Often Jesus’ call can be scary and we duck for cover because we are uncertain of what might be expected. Is it grace that makes us stand up and respond once in a while, and when we do we are often surprised by the blessing, the joy and the reward of doing so. the courage to say yes pick me is so often the courage we lack

  4. I feel these passages are spoken to men. As a woman I m excluded. The Church needs priests. We live from our birth with God and it takes some prayer to see this.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Posts



Most people think of the Ascension of Jesus as being a ‘departure’ moment. Jesus was here and now he is gone. We imagine Jesus going up into the clouds and the disciples waving farewell from below.
This is an unhelpful image.
It is essential that we understand what does happen and what does not happen in the Ascension event.
It would be easy to wrongly think that in his ministry showed us how to build the city of God on earth, and now he has gone and the mission is left to us.

touching the sacred

touching the sacred

A few years ago I was on Rēkohu Chatham Islands for what has become one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most sacred days, the ANZAC day of remembrance in gratitude for those who gave their lives, their health, their youth, their service that we may live in peace.
The art above was produced by one of the students at the local Te One school.

every which way

every which way

A good number of Food For Faith readers have discovered one of the more recent FFF initiatives, the weekly Homily Studio.
The recording of this half-hour podcast is one of the highlights of my week.

in the room

in the room

Today’s reflection marks the end of the FFF Lent-to-Easter daily email posts. Thank you for your company on this journey.  While these daily posts (for those who have signed up for the Lent / Advent reflections at this link) will take a break until Advent, those who have signed up to receive every post or regular posts at this link.  You might take a moment now to visit this page now to check your email preferences.

During retreat this week I found myself pondering just how difficult it is to accept that God, in Jesus, is really with me today.

disciplined discipleship

disciplined discipleship

As I write I’m nearing the end of retreat days with a group of fifty priests from across the USA.  As I mentioned a couple of days ago the diversity and youth of the group is remarkable with the majority being aged under 40 and a good number ordained for fewer than five years.