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Untold Mercy

Homily for the Feast of St. Matthew

Untold Mercy

The opening prayer for today’s feast speaks of God’s “untold mercy.” The word “untold” is one of those English words that is very hard to understand among people for whom English is not their first language. It would seem to indicate that the subject of God’s mercy has not been spoken aloud. However, in this context the word “untold” means “mercy beyond measure,” “mercy beyond counting.” Pope Francis loves to reference Caravaggio’s painting entitled “The Call of St. Matthew” when speaking of God’s mercy. The painting shows Matthew with his fellow toll collectors seated at a table in shadows, counting coins. Off to the side, a man is pointing out Matthew to Jesus who is gesturing to him that he should follow him. Matthew, on the other hand, is pointing to himself as if to say “Who? Me?” Caravaggio paints Matthew as being incredulous that this holy man would want to associate with him. The painting is a favorite of Pope Francis who has chosen as his motto: “calling with abundant mercy.”

We have heard the story often enough that we know that Matthew does indeed follow Jesus. The opening prayer names him as an example and intercessor for us. Just as Jesus chose Matthew, Jesus also chooses us – you and me. Jesus wants to associate with us just as he chose to associate himself with Matthew. We all have been called with abundant, untold mercy.

In his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul pleads that they live in a manner worthy of the call they have received. No matter what role we have been called to in the Church, we all have the same responsibility. We are to build up the body of Christ, to work for the unity of all in the Church.

It should come as no surprise that a consistent theme running through St. Matthew’s Gospel is the primacy of forgiveness and reconciliation in the Christian vocation. He had been a beneficiary of God’s mercy and compassion. Jesus used the call of Matthew to remind us that he came to call sinners, not the just. This is the way that we are to build up the Body of Christ, by bringing forgiveness and reconciliation to all, particularly to those who are in most need of it.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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